Oprah completes her jury stint
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Oprah completes her jury stint

Could the billionaire talk show host – and her program – be better for time spent deliberating a murder trial?

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Robert Ballantyne
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“She has an essence. She’s simply Oprah.”

Yes, the essence of Oprah Winfrey – to paraphrase a quote from a star struck Cook County Courthouse employee – became an essential part of a murder trial jury.

The billionaire talk show host, along with 11 other Cook Country Courthouse jurors convicted 27-year-old Dion Coleman of murder.

And if Oprah, conscience of America, thinks you’re guilty – you’re really guilty.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I like Oprah, I admire what she’s accomplished and her attempts to create positive, uplifting television.

Still, it tickled me to hear she was going to be part of a murder trial jury.

Last season, her self-titled program started to cater to the upper classes – not the middle class audience she usually serves. Her home renovation shows during that season angered me especially, as she remodelled million-dollar homes and condos with her Oprah™ designer Nate Berkus.

Oprah jury trial quick facts:

  • Oprah and the other 11 jurors at the Cook County Criminal Court took two hours and five minutes to deliver their guilty verdict.
  • Dion Coleman, 25, was convicted in the murder of Walter Holley, 23. Coleman could be sentenced to 45 years to natural life in prison.
  • Before Oprah was selected as a juror, the media had not reported on Holley’s 2002 murder.
  • Within minutes of the guilty verdict, Oprah announced she and her fellow jurors were going to tape a “jury reunion” show for her program next week.
  • Oprah was paid $17.20 each day during the three-day trial. Her equivalent salary during that time period would’ve been approximately $492,000.

Fate works in mysterious ways. Who would’ve guessed that Oprah would be picked for jury duty, let alone actually serve on a jury, and then become a juror on a murder trial?

Talk about long odds.

But it’s the right time for Oprah to come back to reality, if only for a few days.

And you can’t get more real than an inner city murder trial. Coleman’s murder of 23-year-old Walter Holley in Chicago’s rough West Side is, unfortunately, the kind of murder that happens everyday.

However, I’m not trying to turn people against Oprah for choosing to spend an hour with Tom Cruise instead of spending an hour examining society’s ills. The Oprah Winfrey Show is a daytime distraction – entertainment with enlightenment mixed in from time-to-time. It should stay that way.

But pleasingly, after delivering the verdict, Oprah said outside the courthouse that deciding the fate of an accused murderer was one of the most eye-opening experiences of her life.

“It’s a huge reality check, there’s a whole other world going on out there,” Winfrey said. “When your life intersects with others in this way, it is forever changed.”

And when Oprah has a revelation, you can be sure that America and the rest of the world will share in her insight.

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