Welcome back to the courthouse, Dear Reader. SPOILER ALERT! If you’ve not been reading the Lessons, you might want to read Lessons 1-6.5
before launching into this one.
On our second day of deliberations, I found myself on the receiving end of many anxious sideways glances. Even the reasonable people seemed to have taken my incessant questions as a sign that I would be a lone holdout, either keeping us in deliberations for days or causing a mistrial. I had left the building after our first day of deliberations in a bit of a quandary, so I spent the evening thinking about the evidence.
We took another vote, this time just by raising our hands, and I was the only one who voted not guilty. One woman demonstrated her equivocation by tilting one hand back and forth, like a see saw, but only I raised my hand to definitively vote “not guilty.” I still wanted to talk about reasonable doubt and the evidence. I reminded them that the girlfriend clearly had mental and emotional issues and that she actually had confessed and had lied about other things. So, we pondered the evidence we had without Cuckoo For Cocoa Puff’s testimony. We still had the following:
- · CFCP’s car was at the scene of the murder at the approximate time of the murder
- · A dark-skinned man exited that car and walked down the street toward the murdered woman’s apartment. Carrying an object that appeared to be a largish gun.
- · The defendant and the murdered woman were getting a divorce and the defendant might lose custody of his son.
- · The other girlfriend had heard the defendant say he would have to murder his wife in order to keep custody of his son.
- · The defendant’s DNA was on the glove found at the murder scene.
Headlines tell us everyday what a huge risk it is to be a woman getting a divorce and how that risk increases exponentially if a custody battle exists as well. Besides, what were the odds that CFCP knew another dark-skinned man and asked him to kill her boyfriend’s wife? And why, if she did ask someone to kill the woman, would she then throw the defendant under the bus instead of the actual killer? Clearly she loved the defendant.
We discussed more about the DNA “expert” and the chances of the DNA actually jumping from the swab to the finger of the glove found at the scene. We did not actually know if the two packages were close together during transport to the Washington State Patrol crime lab. Why didn’t the DNA jump also onto the red jacket? And if using plastic bags was really the better standard, why didn’t more agencies employ the practice? Only one state in 50 actually required evidence to be sealed into plastic/impervious envelopes.
The longer we discussed, the fewer doubts I had about the defendant’s guilt. I knew I had to vote to convict the defendant. However, everyone else on the jury seemed to expect me to vote not guilty. I could tell. They told me they admired my strength. They cocked their heads and addressed me as they might a stubborn child. By this time, it was nearly 11:30, so we decided to take another vote before the lunch break. We raised our hands again, and this time I voted guilty.
We convicted him dear reader. And I was not without my qualms, but my reasoning won out. I maybe had a bit of doubt, but I was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. My doubts began to seem quite unreasonable to me in the face of the evidence. I think my doubts ran the gamut of the normal doubts one might have knowing that they held the balance of someone’s life in their hands. As a Gemini, I can always see both sides of an issue or a story. I tend to sympathize with the underdog, and I abhor unfairness.
We let the bailiff know we had reached a verdict, and everyone assembled in short order. As we filed back into the courtroom and took our seats in the jury box, I felt confident. And powerful. Only the twelve of us knew the verdict. The rest of the people in the courtroom could only speculate. The foreman handed the verdict to the court clerk. The court clerk opened the folder and read the verdict aloud: “On the charge of murder in the first degree, we find the defendant guilty.” We also agreed that the murder had been committed with a gun (seemed pretty obvious), and that it had occurred in Washington State (also obvious) which meant the sentence would be more severe.
One by one the court clerk asked if indeed we had reached this verdict and if it was our actual verdict. We each said “it is.” And with that, they handcuffed the defendant and led him away to await sentencing, which, mercifully, was not our issue. The judge thanked us and told us we were free to go, that we could receive counseling should we be in any way traumatized by this trial, and that we were welcome to stick around for a debriefing with the lawyers and the judge.
I decided to stay. I needed some closure. I needed to be sure.
Lesson Seven: Occam’s Razor, lex parsimoniae: the simplest answer is often the correct answer.