Sypher trial courthouse updates

By: Travis K. Kircher

NOTE: Each section is broken up by witness, with the later witnesses coming first. Thus, the further down the reader goes, the earlier in the day the testimony came.

Witness: Melissa Brent

Former Porcini Bartender

Roughly 4:00 p.m.

Melissa Brent isn't one to be trifled with.

The blonde woman in her mid-thirties is currently employed at Steel Technologies, but before that, she worked as a bartender for Porcini.

In fact, she was working there the night Karen Sypher claims she was raped by Rick Pitino.

On July 31, 2003, she says remembers seeing Pitino at the bar. She also says she remembers seeing Michael Przybylbk (see earlier testimony below), several of Pitino's colleagues, and – last but not least – Karen Sypher.

Of Przybylbk, she says she remembers seeing him eating at a table – something she said was out of character for him.

"He was having dinner or a meeting with Mrs. Sypher," she said. "It appeared that they were on some kind of date."

"Was Mrs. Sypher drinking that night?" asked Assistant U.S. Prosecutor Jim Kuhn.

"Yes," Brent replied.

Brent said Przybylbk and Sypher left the restaurant at the same time, but Sypher returned later in the evening, wearing a white top and a "very short" white skirt.

Brent said Pitino had assigned one of his colleagues the role of "designated driver" – a "very common" practice for him.

She said she watched Sypher and noticed that she was "giggly" and "flirty" and noted that she was "just trying to edge herself into the scene to talk to Mr. Pitino."

As the night wore on, Brent said people filed out of the restaurant, but Sypher and Pitino stayed.

"My impression was that they were enjoying each other's company," she said, adding that they were "close to one another."

Defense attorney James Earhart then began his cross examination – attacking the credibility of Brent's recollections. He started by asking Brent who else was eating at Porcini that night, other than the people who were pertinent to the trial.

"I don't know," Brent said. "Numerous people."

"I mean, you remember my client was wearing a white dress," Earhart said. "What were the others wearing?"

"I don't recall," Brent said.

Earhart continued to ask Brent about other details she could not remember. He asked her to recall people at the Porcini restaurant on random dates. She said she could not. He asked her to provide the exact date she had ever seen Rick Pitino in Porcini – and what he was wearing at the time – and she could not.

He then went on to ask her about her testimony in which she said people filed out of the restaurant after midnight, leaving Rick Pitino and Karen Sypher alone.

"I just honestly thought it was odd," Brent said.

Earhart asked if this was the only time Pitino had ever been given the keys to the restaurant and told to lock up – the only time he was there alone at closing time with a woman.

"Yes sir," Brent replied.

"I thought so," Earhart said.

Kuhn re-addressed Brent after Earhart's cross examination and asked her to explain why she was able to remember the events of that night so clearly. He asked if it was because Rick Pitino – a married man – was alone with another woman?

Brent said that it was.

Shortly after that, court was adjourned for the day.

This ends Day Two of the Karen Sypher trial.

Witness: Margaret Ann Cameron

Merchandise Manager, Springs Country Club

Roughly 3:00 p.m.

Margaret Ann Cameron (otherwise known as "Maggie") is a consummate golfer. She testified that she used to play golf professionally in Japan and Australia. She's the merchandise manager for the Springs Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.

And on July 31, 2003 – the night Karen Sypher claims she was raped by Rick Pitino -- she was at the bar in Porcini. She had a glass of wine with a friend. Assistant U.S. Prosecutor John Kuhn even produced the receipt from that purchase, so many years ago.

"Who did you meet that night?" Kuhn asked Cameron.

"Rick Pitino and his friends," Cameron replied. "We started to have a conversation because my girlfriend likes to tell everyone that I'm a good golfer."

The topic of the conversation quickly turned to the Valhalla golf course – a course that Cameron describes as, "the top of the food chain." Cameron said she was excited because the group was planning a golf outing to Valhalla.

"We were just a group," she testified. "We were kinda hanging out and chatting…we were all just talking about golf. It was so exciting."

At this point, Cameron testified, a woman ran up to Pitino with a cell phone and shrieked, "Will you talk to my son? Will you talk to my son?"

"She was rude," Cameron testified.

What was she wearing?

"I just remember that she was flashy."

Kuhn asked Cameron if that woman was in the courtroom and if she could point her out.

"She's right there," Cameron said, indicating Karen Sypher.

A few moments later, defense attorney James Earhart cross examined Cameron.

"I assume they found out you were a good golfer," he said.

Cameron repeated that her girlfriend had told them that.

"Did you get to go?" Earhart asked about the trip.

"No," Cameron said.

Earhart then began to question Cameron's recollections – specifically the incident with Sypher and the cell phone, as well as what Sypher was wearing.

"So you saw a woman six years ago on one occasion for a few moments?" he asked, wondering how Cameron could claim to remember everything about Sypher.

"I was just taken aback by how rude she was," Cameron said some minutes later.

"Did you see Rick Pitino take the phone and call her sons?" Earhart asked.

"She was already on the phone with her sons," Cameron replied.

Cameron's testimony ended a few minutes later.

Witness: Michael Przybylbk

Former executive at The Courier-Journal

Roughly 2:15 p.m.

It was mid-afternoon on Tuesday when Michael Przybylbk (pronounced Sha-buick) took the stand. When asked to spell his last name for the court reporter, Przybylbk said he would give anyone $100 if they could guess it right. There were no takers.

Przybylbk is now retired from The Courier-Journal, but was at one time a vice president of operations in the production department, with 343 people under him. His importance to the case? Sypher originally told the FBI she had gone to Porcini for an interview for a job at the Courier-Journal. Prosecutors allege that she was lying.

On July 31, 2003 – the night of the first alleged rape – Przybylbk was at the Porcini restaurant where the rape took place. He testified that he had linguini and a bottle of wine. Assistant U.S. Prosecutor John Kuhn produced a piece of paper and asked if it was the receipt for the night in question. Przybylbk said that it was.

"The credit card is in my wife's name – my ex-wife," he said. The courtroom erupted in laughter.

Przybylbk said he would go to Porcini two or three times a week, and would often order the linguini dish with red clam sauce, which he said was priced at exactly $19.95.

When he walked into Porcini, Przybylbk said Karen Sypher was sitting at the bar with two women beside her. Later, those two women walked away and asked him what wine he was drinking. He offered to pour some for her from his bottle and she agreed.

"Then we talked about where she lived," Przybylbk testified. "She lived in Lake Forest. I said, ‘Wow! So do I!'" 

As they continued to talk, Przybylbk said Sypher told him that she would have to sell her home and really needed a job. She asked if there were any openings in his department.

"There is a new product that we're starting called ‘Velocity,'" he testified to saying, adding that he told her that she might be able to get a sales executive job selling ads for the weekly paper.

Kuhn asked Przybylbk if he interviewed her.

"No," he replied. "I had never met her before, so how could I have interviewed her?"

"I wouldn't interview anyone at a restaurant," he added later. "Too noisy."

Przybylbk said he ran into Sypher weeks later at The Courier-Journal. His secretary called him to tell him there was a lady in the lobby who wanted to speak with him. When he met Sypher, he testified that she told him, "I'm here to apply for that job!" He said he pointed her to the right department and left her there.

Karen Sypher was later hired by The Courier-Journal as an outside sales executive.

Witness: Special Agent Michael Shafer (FBI)

Special Agent Michael Shafer was called to the stand shortly thereafter. His significance to this case? He was the third FBI agent to interview Karen Sypher when the bureau's investigation began last year. He's also the one who allegedly got her to admit that her friend, Lester Goetzinger, made the threatening phone calls to Rick Pitino.

Shafer said that on April 16, 2009, he was contacted by his colleagues at the bureau and asked to interview Sypher. That interview was conducted the following day.

"She told me she had no knowledge whatsoever who had made the calls," Shafer said.

Assistant U.S. Prosecutor John Kuhn asked Shafer if he believed her.

"I did not," Shafer replied.

Did she change her story?

"Yes she did," Shafer said.

Eventually, Shafer said Sypher gave him a name: Lester Getts.

"She described him as a 20-year friend," Shafer testified, adding that Sypher told him her relationship with "Getts" was strictly "platonic."

When pressed on whether there was any sexual nature to the relationship, Shafer said Sypher told him there wasn't.

As for her demeanor during the interview, Shafer testified that, "generally speaking, she was cooperative," though he said she sobbed a couple of times when the topic of the alleged rapes came up.

When asked if there was anything strange about her sobbing, Shafer testified that there were no tears.

At this point the defense objected and the two legal teams approached the judge's bench to discuss something under the shield of background noise, that is employed to keep anyone from hearing their conversation. When they returned to their desks, the matter was dropped and James Earhart, attorney for the defense, began his cross examination.

Regarding Shafer's interview, Earhart emphasized that Sypher had already been interviewed about the threatening phone calls twice before. He also pointed out that the interview was not recorded, and Sypher was not asked to put her words in writing.

"We just have your impressions of what she said – and your recollections, right?" he asked special agent Shafer.

Shafer added that they also had his written reports.

Shafer ended his testimony a few minutes later.

Eric Tyrell, a supervisor in the legal compliance department for Spring Nextel Communications was called immediately after. His testimony was brief, and he was used by the prosecution to verify the authenticity of the cell phone records that had been brought into evidence.

Witness: Lester Goetzinger

Approx. 11:15 a.m.

Immediately after the Fox 41 interview of Karen Sypher was played for the jury, prosecutors called Lester Goetzinger to the stand.

A few things about Goetzinger: He's a 1978 graduate of DeSalles High School. He's worked at LG&E since 1994, when he was employed as a gas technician.

He's also the man prosecutors say made three threatening phone calls to Rick Pitino last year.

Goetzinger arrived in a cream colored coat, a pink tie and a bluish white shirt. He had red hair, and a deep voice. He spoke on the stand with his fingers intertwined, and he'd occasionally rub them together nervously.

After Goetzinger was sworn in, Assistant U.S. Prosecutor John Kuhn asked him if he knew Karen Sypher.

"Yes I do," Goetzinger said.

He then went on to tell how he and Sypher met, back in 1994, when he was installing a gas meter at her home in Hurstbourne Estates.

"She came out and thanked me and my partner for doing the work," he said. When Sypher told him she needed someone to move some rocks that were in her yard, he said, "I volunteered to do it the next day."

Goetzinger characterized Sypher as "real friendly" during that meeting, and added that she "seemed genuine – real sweet and friendly."

"She gave me her business card and told me to call her sometime," he testified. "I did and we had a Coke."

One year later, in 1995, Goetzinger said they shared their first kiss outside of a McDonald's. That year, their friendship grew into a sexual relationship, with Goetzinger testifying that they engaged in sexual relations "once a week – if that."

Goetzinger was married at the time.

But his relationship with Sypher wasn't unconditional – according to Goetzinger. He says it came with a price tag.

"She would always want money or for me to do something around the house," he said, adding that he would often give her $20 or $40 at a time and probably gave her a total of $10,000 during the course of their relationship.

He said they stopped seeing each other in 2002, but he caught up with her again at a UofL basketball game in 2005. Goetzinger said Karen Sypher was married to Tim Sypher – the UofL equipment manager at the time. He said he saw her again at a second game.

"I asked for her number and she gave it to me," he said.

Then, he said, it all started again. They began having sexual relations again in 2006, once or twice a week. Goetzinger said he often brought gifts, such as a smoked ham or turkey for holidays.

But on Feb. 25, 2009, Goetzinger said, everything changed.

"She came out to my house," he testified.

"Where was your wife?" Kuhn asked.

"Out of town on business," Goetzinger said, adding that he and Sypher were along together for about an hour.

"What did you do?" Kuhn asked.

"We had sex," Goetzinger said.

At the end of their meeting, Goetzinger said Sypher said she wanted to tell him "something she had never told anyone before."

"She told me she was raped," Goetzinger said.

Goetzinger testified that Sypher told him all about the two alleged rapes and the abortion. There was one discrepancy, however, between what Sypher told Goetzinger and what she told police about the night of the first alleged rape in a Louisville restaurant:

"She told me it was in the bathroom," Goetzinger said.

"In the bathroom?" Kuhn asked.

Goetzinger replied in the affirmative – and added that Sypher told him there was another man guarding the door.

That's when Goetzinger said, Sypher asked him to make the threatening phone calls to Rick Pitino. Actually, Goetzinger used a stronger word.

"She begged me to make some phone calls," he said. "She told me that if I ever done anything for her, I needed to do this for her."

Goetzinger said he didn't want to make the phone calls but relented.

"She told me to go to a payphone," he said. "She said they wouldn't be traced that way."

Then, he testified that Sypher wrote down Pitino's personal cell phone number on a yellow piece of paper.

Prosecutors produced phone records that showed that Sypher and Goetzinger exchanged cell phone calls at various times before or after the threatening phone calls were made to Pitino.

The last of the three phone calls was made to Pitino on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009. Goetzinger said, "she told me to mention the media in the call…I told her no more after that."

Prosecutors played all three calls for the jury. The threatening message left for Pitino on Feb. 28 was as follows: "Within two weeks, the media will be notified of all the details and evidence of the rape."

On March 9, 2009, Goetzinger said he got a phone call from Karen Sypher.

"She told me not to call her," he said, adding that she told him her telephones were bugged and the FBI was after her.

On April 17, 2009 – a Friday night – Goetzinger was out to dinner with his wife, when he received his final call from Sypher. This call was played for the jury. In it, the phone rings several times, and Goetzinger picks up.

"Lester, it's Karen," Sypher's voice seemed to say. "It's very important…I need to find out what I need to do about those phone calls that you made."

At this point, Goetzinger's voice can be heard telling Sypher that he isn't interested, and then the phone is disconnected.

At 9 p.m. that evening, Goetzinger testified, several FBI agents showed up at his home to question him about the phone calls.

What happened next?

Goetzinger was charged with aiding and abetting extortion. He was put into a diversion program. What does that mean?

"As long as I obey the law, do things and report to a probation officer, it will all go away in a year," he said.

Kuhn questioned why Sypher would tell the FBI that his name was "Getts" and not provide the full name "Goetzinger." He asked Goetzinger whether she had any special nicknames for him.

"She used to call me Sweetie," he said, but added later that, after 15 years, she should have known his full name.

The judge ordered a recess for lunch.


1:00 p.m.

After lunch, James Earhart, Sypher's attorney cross examined Goetzinger.

He tried to paint a picture of Goetzinger that was consistent with his opening remarks, in which he compared Goetzinger to the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction.

He noted that when Goetzinger saw her at a UofL game in 2005, he approached her again at the next game and got her number.

"You also knew where she lived?" Earhart asked. "How hard is it for you to find a person's local address.

Goetzinger replied that LG&E employees, "can't do that."

"What did you do after you got her new number?" Earhart asked. "Start calling her? Start visiting her?"

"You were infatuated with Karen Sypher weren't you?"

Goetzinger replied that they had a good friendship. Earhart asked him why he had struck up a relationship with Sypher in the first place.

"Because she was a beautiful woman."

The testimony returned to Feb. 25, 2009, when Sypher allegedly asked Goetzinger to make the threatening phone calls to Rick Pitino.

"You were willing to commit a felony offense for Karen Sypher," he said, adding that Goetzinger was also willing to risk his job and his marriage.

Later, when Goetzinger learned that it was Karen Sypher who had led the FBI to him, he was asked if he felt betrayed.

"Yes I do," he said – adding that he still feels betrayed to this day.

"I trusted a friend," he said later."

Earhart then zeroed in on the third phone call – and began to question Goetzinger about what Earhart said was one important discrepancy: He could tell police which payphone the first two calls originated from, but he had no idea where the third phone call originated.

"Tell this jury why, on April 17, 2009, you didn't know where this third call was made from!" Earhart said, his voice rising.

Goetzinger replied that he simply could not remember.

"Because you didn't make it, did you?" Earhart shouted.

Earhart asked the court to play the tape of the third call again.

"That's not your voice!" Earhart said.

"That's me," Goetzinger replied quietly.

Goetzinger was dismissed from the stand moments later.

9:45 a.m.

The Fox 41 Sypher Interview

There are times in journalism when you report the story. Then there are those rare days when you actually become the story.

This was one of those days.

This morning, Assistant U.S. District Prosecutor John Kuhn played a video of an interview Fox 41's Candyce Clifft had with Karen Sypher. The video was shot on April 9, 2009, when Sypher first came forward with allegations of rape against Rick Pitino. She appeared with her son, Jacob Wise.

Fox 41 News Director Barry Fulmer did not appear, but provided authentication that the video was genuine.

PLEASE NOTE: For the remainder of this blog entry, I will be describing what Karen Sypher said in that interview. During this interview, Sypher made several allegations against Pitino. I am not reporting that these allegations are true – ONLY that they were made by Karen Sypher.

The audio was difficult to hear, so the court passed out special battery-powered headphones to members of the jury and the media.

This video was guarded so tightly, that most of the reporters at Fox 41 – including myself – had never seen it in its entirety before today.

The video was roughly 70 minutes long – and contained the raw, unedited footage of the interview.

It begins with Sypher and her son sitting at a table in the Fox 41 conference room – where morning news meetings are typically held.

Candyce Clifft's voice can be heard in the background, though she is not visible on the screen.

"We'll edit [the video]," she said, "because I figure we'll be talking for a while."

"What's my hair look like?" Sypher asks at one point.

As the video progresses, Sypher begins to talk about the first alleged rape that took place in a Louisville restaurant in 2009. She explains how she ran into Rick Pitino for the first time inside the restaurant.

"I met Rick when I was interviewing for The Courier-Journal," she told Clifft. "I was with this other person who was trying to pass on my resume."

She said he tried to talk to her.

"I did stop," she said. "I'm very cordial…he said, ‘Please sit down and have a seat and let's chit-chat.'"

Sypher told Clifft that she knew who Pitino was.

"Absolutely, but he wasn't god to me."

Sypher continued.

"We were having just a cordial conversation," she said, adding that she tried to keep the dialogue focused on her (at the time) four children and their sporting ventures.

"As a matter of fact, he actually talked to them and spoke to them on the phone," she said.

Sypher said that two hours passed, and Pitino had "been drinking quite a bit," while she had only had one glass of wine.

That's when Sypher claims the tables turned.

"At that time, all of sudden, things started changing," she said. "People started leaving – one by one. That was very strange."

She said she thought it was so odd because, though it was around 11 p.m., it was not yet closing time. Then, she says, the owner of the restaurant handed Pitino the keys to the door and told him to lock up when he was done.

At this point, Sypher claims "Rick" came to her and "took my hand" and led her to a booth.

"I'll never forget that booth," she told Clifft.

Sypher said Pitino pushed her down and she said, "What are you doing?" That's when, she says, he raped her.

"I was afraid of this powerful – so called powerful – man. And I'm a very strong woman!" Sypher said.

Sypher told Clifft that during the rape, Pitino said told her to "Shut up! Shut up and be quiet!"

The rape, "didn't last long, but it seemed like ages to me," Sypher said.

After the rape, Sypher said Pitino told her he needed a ride home. She claims she was in shock and all she wanted to do was to get Rick Pitino out of her life. She says Pitino told her, "No one knows about this, and you need to take me home."

She told Candyce Clifft that she later learned she was pregnant from the incident. When she called Pitino about it, she said "He tried to blame it all on me…he had his family growing up and everything was about him."

She also claims she was threatened by Pitino at this point, when he allegedly told her, "If you mention this to anyone, you and your children will be put in concrete." At this point, she says she "froze."

Sypher said she was now faced with the choice of whether to keep the baby or get an abortion.

"I'm a devout Catholic," she told Clifft. "I don't believe in abortion."

At this point in the video, Sypher began to tell Clifft about the second alleged rape – the one that she claims took place during a meeting with Rick Pitino at the home of Tim Sypher (who was soon to become her husband.)

She said she was supposed to meet with Pitino when a car pulled up and the person inside – who was "Italian-looking" – asked her to follow him. They drove to Tim Sypher's condo and Pitino was inside, according to Sypher, acting like nothing had ever happened. Sypher said he asked if she wanted wine, but she took water instead.

At this point, Karen Sypher says Pitino told Tim Sypher to go upstairs.

Sypher says Pitino told her, "We need to take care of this" and that "There's no way in hell that we can have this baby."

Then Sypher corrected herself in the video. She told Candyce Clifft that Pitino said, "There's no way that I can have this baby."

At this point, Sypher tells Clifft that Pitino, "laid me on the floor and I said, ‘What are you doing?' and he raped me."

"I still haven't gotten over that – and I never will," Sypher says in the video.

When questioned about why she's only now – six years later – remembering these details, Sypher said she and her family had been "brainwashed."

Karen Sypher said this meeting was the first time she had ever seen Tim Sypher. And as time progressed, she said they began to develop a romantic relationship.

"I did what he said," Sypher claimed. "I had a fear of him, but yet I had a sense of comfort. He had his ways."

She said they went to Cincinnati together so that Karen could get an abortion. While there, Sypher claims Tim Sypher instructed her how to fill out her forms. Karen Sypher told Candyce Clifft that she didn't want to get an abortion, but that Tim Sypher told her, "You have no choice."

She broke down as she began to discuss the abortion procedure.

"They turned the machine on – the suction – the long tube," she wept. "I wanted to get up and run so bad, but I knew I couldn't because of my children.

She discussed the repercussions she believed the abortion had on her spiritual life.

"I couldn't let anyone know that I was a sinner – that I'd sinned," she told Clifft in the interview. "I ended up murdering my baby!"

She added that every night when she goes to sleep, she knows she is going to hell.

"This was not me. This was like an out-of-body experience," she said.

Shortly after the abortion, Sypher told Clifft her relationship with Tim Sypher deepened.

"He did everything," she said. "He made me laugh. He took me to every event."

Karen said Tim Sypher didn't seem to mind taking her to UofL sporting events, despite the fact that his boss – Rick Pitino – seemed uncomfortable about it. She said Pitino sometimes came over and shook her hand or gave her a hug, but she just wanted to get away from him.

"I did it for Tim," Karen Sypher told Clifft in 2009. "I was falling in love with him – I thought. This was his job, and he couldn't lose his job."

During this point in their relationship, Karen Sypher got pregnant by Tim Sypher. She calls herself "a double murderer" because she got a second abortion in January 2004. She says Tim Sypher talked her into the abortion, because he didn't want the stigma of a child outside of wedlock.

"I was so excited. So excited. So excited," she told Clifft. "He said no."

The two became engaged April 4, 2004 and were later married in Nantucket, Mass. and later, Sypher gave birth to a little girl.

Years later, she said her marriage to Tim Sypher turned sour. She started talking about a divorce, "when I found out my family was brainwashed and then I snapped out of it."

She had a meeting with Rick Pitino in early 2009, when Rick Pitino confronted her about threatening messages he had been receiving on his cell phone. (The court would later learn that those calls came from Lester Goetzinger.) In the interview, Sypher said she told police she didn't know anything about it.

"I said, ‘I've never heard those calls before and I'm not responsible and I don't know what you're talking about.'"

Then Karen Sypher said Pitino told her about a college fund that had been set up for her daughter. She said she didn't know anything about it – and she learned that her husband, Tim Sypher, had kept the information from her.

"That's when it all broke," she told Clifft. "That's when I had to be strong because I didn't trust my husband and I didn't trust anyone."

"I know I have to divorce this man," she told Clifft in the 2009 interview. "This man is not the man I married."

Karen Sypher told Clifft that her husband at one point made a veiled threat that if she didn't tell her who made the threatening phone calls to Pitino, she would get concrete shoes.

Near the end of the interview, Sypher broke down in tears over the fact that her former husband, Tim Sypher, is on the board of directors for the Daniel Pitino Foundation – a foundation named after one of Rick Pitino's sons who died of heart failure at six months of age. Karen Sypher said his insistence that she get an abortion should disqualify him.

"He has the nerve to collect money and do this and act like he cares about children that die – babies that die!"

The video concluded moments later.


U.S. District Court

9:15 a.m.

It's Day Two of the Karen Sypher trial. Court is set to begin in 15 minutes, though I'm told this judge isn't necessarily known for starting things on time.

Some random thoughts before I walk upstairs to the courtroom and enter the cone of silence:

I am constantly amazed by our legal system, but there's one thing in particular that really floors me every time I blog a court case. It doesn't matter whether it's a case of small-time robbery or a triple murder trial. No matter who is on trial or what the charges are, there's one thing everyone in the courtroom will always do.

They always stand for the jury.

Everyone stands. The attorneys stand. The defendant stands. The families -- both the victims' and the defendants'. The observers (i.e. the audience) stands -- if they know what's good for 'em. Heck, even the media stands.

We stand when they walk in and we stand when they walk out?

So why do we do it?

I'm sure there's a codebook somewhere that provides an *official* explanation for it all, but here's my take on it.

Everyone else in the courtroom -- the judge, the attorneys, the media -- they all share one thing in common: they're all getting paid. They're here because they have to be. Granted, the defendant and the victims aren't getting paid, but they here because they have to be -- more so than anyone else.

But the jury is different. The jury is made up of what you and I would call "regular people."

They're providing a service. For roughly two weeks, their lives come to an end. They're yanked out of their jobs, their homes, their daily routine. They march downtown in 90-plus degree weather and watch two sad, family tragedies unfold. And they're not paid for it.

Well they are...but not much.

Another point: When you think about it, as powerful as the judge, the attorneys and -- arguably -- the media are, the jury wields the most authority in the room. They're the showstoppers. It's the jurors who decide whether Karen Sypher is innocent or guilty. It's the jurors who decide whether she'll spend years behind bars, or ride home and eat Dairy Queen with the family on the day the trial ends.

As powerful as the judge is, he can't make that decision. Even with all the years of schooling and all the letters behind their names, the attorneys can't do that either.

Next time you walk into a courtroom, don't be overawed by the tailor-made suits and ties the attorneys are wearing. Don't spend too much time gaping at the judge's huge marble desk or the long robes he wears.

Don't kid yourself. These aren't the ones in charge.

If you're gonna be afraid of anyone, be afraid of the kid in blue jeans and a t-shirt sitting in the jury box.

Day Two of the Sypher trial begins in one minute. I'm off to the courtroom.