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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Juror # 9

This blog has been a long time coming.  It is an experience that ripped me a part for a long time but I must write about it.
Back in March, I was selected for jury duty and became juror #9 on a trial of a 22 year old black male. The case was a home invasion burglary.  The alleged crime took place in the neighborhood off of Bay Street near Hylan Blvd in Staten Island in March 2009. The suspects were black guys: Black masked men. The mask they wore were black, one in which had with white stripes.  And the men were black; Six feet tall and well built.  They wore black jackets. 
So what's the trend here?  A lot of black and very vague descriptions of those involved.

Did they wear gloves? Nobody was sure, which was evident when hearing the cloudy testimony. There were guns though.
Ironically, the cops lost their written notes from that day.  Questionable?  There was no fingerprints anywhere in the house. So, was everyone wearing gloves?  Victim included?  Because there was a lot of blood on walls and on the floor.  Not one fingerprint?  Not of the home owner and alleged victim who held the glass door open for the unmasked black man who asked if "John" was home. Not one! Not one witness, not the man who got beat up, not the neighbor that saw the men walking away from the house, not anyone who saw the black men walking up a street where everyone has lived for about 20 years. The only proof that we the  jury ever heard was the DNA on the mask that somebody left in the middle of the kitchen. 
So let me recap: No written notes from the cops; No physical description of any of the 4 men; DNA on a mask; no fingerprints in the entire house. Okay so the DNA alone should  prove that the male was in the house and committed everything he was charged of. Should it? The defendant decided not to take the stand-he didn't have to because it was up to the ADA to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Unfortunately life is not that easy and to make a decision simply based on this proved to be a tough 11 day trial.
The jury: 2 older white women that immediately said guilty. DNA on the mask found at the scene is enough to say he did it.
2 men and  2 older women of different ethnic groups and 6 young women of various backgrounds.
Others  gradually turned their verdicts to guilty as time went on every morning we reported; however 2 of us were standing on our ground.  We couldn't  see past the reasonable doubt factor. Would this be a hung jury or would we all come to an agreement? We asked many questions of the judge; and constantly asked to hear the testimony several times.  The defendant's lawyer loved us.  The Assistant District Attorney team, not so much.
These were some of the reasons why the 2 of us couldn't get to a guilty verdict so quickly: No fingerprints; A mask with DNA could have been placed there; The cops' notes disappeared from an office where only the detective had access to.
 The theories surrounding this event were many: The son of the owner was a drug dealer and in partnership with the black men. The son stole some of the profits and they were looking for him to pay them back and the parents were protecting their son; The cops were out to get this kid because he was a known problem in the neighborhood; It was a part of a gang initiation of some sort; It was the kid's mask that his friends made him wear for fun or a part of another crime, however he wasn't at this burglary; The kid did another job with them and he turned someone in so now they were casting revenge on him; They had taken his mask and one of the men dropped it in the middle of the bloody mess in the kitchen on pulse, because what fool would take of his mask while punching a man and then drop it?
Some of these theories are out of the box but when you are on a jury, you are making a decision that affects many peoples' lives, it's one difficult task!  

The bottom line is that I am the type of person that needs all to come to some agreement.  I need to make decisions thoughtfully.  As time went on, I was the only one holding on to a not guilty verdict.  They hated me! I was keeping them from going back to work, going to Atlantic City; but I did get them some more free yummy meals.
There were several counts we were considering, so as time went on, I used logic and fact, and stopped using theories and said well if his DNA was there then I guess he was there. I feel like we were trapped and needed to come to a decision.  I feel like the jury system failed me, a person who really wanted to make an informed decision.     
Let me state, I never want to be judged by a jury of my "peers." And thank God I don't have to serve on any jury for another 8 years!!!!  

Here are two links to the story written by the Staten Island Advance.  Usually I am a fan of the media; but did find it interesting how a story gets distorted.  I did come to find out, though, that he was originally brought to trial on this alleged where a hung jury preceded us.  Thus I felt even more distressed about the decision to find him guilty.  But I did raise my hand and affirm him as guilty.

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