MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Filet mignon, lobster, you name it, Shelby County jurors ate it, and it was taxpayers who picked up the tab while hundreds of jurors were sequestered.
When juries are sequestered they are shut out from the world. They stay in a hotel and are under the watch of sheriff's deputies during the trial. It can get expensive, and taxpayers are paying for it all.
In the past year, half a million dollars was spent on food and hotels for sequestered jurors and deputies keeping an eye on them.
Former jury foreman Alexis Amorose describes dinner while she was on a sequestered jury.
"People were sitting at the table eating like they were on the biggest vacation of their lives," she said. "The deputies that were guarding us, they sure took advantage of that as well; they had some very nice meals."
This isn't unusual. The truth is, sequestered juries are the norm in Shelby County.
"We want to treat our sequestered jurors good," stated Chief Larry Young with the Shelby Co. Sheriff's Office. "We want them to have a pleasant experience; we don't want them to leave with a negative attitude."
Chief Young said jurors are allowed $55 a day for meal expenses.
He said, "It's the same per diem as we give county employees and we hold them to that, breakfast, lunch and dinner combined."
That may be the policy, but in reality, Amorose told abc24.com, "If I had wanted steak with extra lobster ... There were no limitations."
A look at receipts shows that. On a trip to Outback Steakhouse, jurors and deputies not only got filet, they added lobster tails. Six days later during the same trial, almost $1,500 was spent on food alone.
Lunch at the courthouse also reveals some interesting numbers. Records show for one lunch 18 meals were needed, but the receipt shows lunch for 44 was ordered.
The paperwork for July 14, 2010 reveals 30 lunches were needed, 51 were ordered.
The truth is, we don't know who's eating all that extra food.
How much is it costing you?
Sheriff's office records prove food and hotel bills for the Jessie Dotson case cost taxpayers $56,000. Harry Coleman's trial, the man convicted of killing a man in a Cordova parking lot, cost you $7,400 in meal and hotel bills. When Dexter Cox was on trial for killing a Memphis Police officer, you paid $6,700 for three and a half days of housing and feeding jurors and deputies.
You've probably heard of those cases, but even more money is spent on the cases you've never heard about, like the trial Amorose was on.
"This was just one guy hustling some money from someone else and it resorted to violence," she said.
You may think sequestering jury's is the norm, but jurors in Nashville, Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles are rarely sequestered. The last time there was a sequestered jury in LA was the OJ Simpson trial in 1995.
Amorose, who is also a taxpayer, said sequestering her jury wasted your money.
"There just seemed to be no reason to take it to this level."
The sheriff's office said they monitor receipts through a series of checks and balances. The truth is, if the judges didn't sequester so many juries taxpayers wouldn't be paying for juries and deputies to eat high off the hog.