All of the commotion surrounding the Caylee Anthony murder trial, and the jury’s decision, prompted the local daily to ask its readers to submit their jury stories, which reminded me of a jury I once served on.
It was a twelve-man jury. Felony charges of breaking and entering, forcible rape, and other minor charges I’ve since forgotten. The jury was a mixed bag, 4 black women, 2 white women, the rest divided between white and black men. Both defendant and alleged victim were black.
The young man was the ex-husband of the victim and the father of her child. He testified that he was out of work, but had found a job in New Jersey where he could live with his sister and that he went over to his ex’s house the evening of the crime simply to say goodbye to his son before he left the next day. To the young man’s credit, he never missed a child support payment and always got his son when it was his turn to have him. A complication in the relationship were actions initiated by him to gain custody of the boy, claiming the mother an unfit parent. He wanted to take the boy to New Jersey with him and she refused to let him go.
He claimed that he did not break into the home, even though the bedroom window was broken out and duct tape, with his fingerprints on it, was stuck to the broken glass laying on the ground outside (indicating pre-meditation).
She claimed that he tied her to the bed, stripped her and raped her, even though she wasn’t actually tied, but hand-cuffed, and was wearing only a black lace teddy and no-crotch panties when the police arrived. (I couldn't believe my good luck when the defense asked her to demonstrate the position she was in when raped. Oh yeah.) The police also found a duplicate pair of cuffs hanging from the mirror in her car and other bondage accessories in the apartment. Neighbors reported that she was known to frequently entertain guests.
Apart from everything else, there was no doubt that the guy had broken into the apartment. The police had him dead to rights. She probably refused to let him in to see his son so he broke in, got entangled with his ex in her sexy black teddy, whereupon Mr. Happy took charge. For me, it was a real conundrum. Guilty beyond doubt on at least one charge, a felony breaking and entering, but plenty of doubt on all the others. Certainly enough doubt not to send this otherwise good father to prison for 20 years under very questionable circumstances. I was startled out of my conundrum by the slap of the gavel as the judge charged the jury, appointed me foreman, and dismissed us to deliberate.
As we all sat around the table in the jury room and I took my place at the head, I was wondering what I was going to say when one of the black ladies started in. In rapid succession she was joined by all of the other women, all of them hot under the collar, all of them talking at once, all of them saying pretty much the same thing… “dat little tramp should be the one going to jail.” “Try to send dat boy up for 20 years, and he be the father of her baby!” “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like it!”
I quietly surveyed the men, each of whom simply grinned and said not a word. The women kept at it. I called the bailiff and told him we were ready. The women kept at it. The men got up and went into the courtroom. The women were still at it as they filed into the courtroom where they were abruptly silenced by the slap of the gavel as the judge called the court to order. The judge, a spitting image of Fred Gwynne in My Cousin Vinny, looked down at his watch, looked up at me with a quizzical expression and said, “Twenty minutes?” I squirmed under his gaze.
After a pause, he continued, “Mr. Foreman, do you have a verdict?” “Yes, your honor,” I replied. “We find the defendant not guilty.”