Monday, April 07, 2008

How an Innocent Person is Convicted, Part 13: A jury that doesn't understand presumption of innocence or reasonable doubt

Despite the prosecution's use of altered evidence, and their attempts to confuse the jury, we approached the verdict with confidence. How could they find Todd guilty when no one ever saw him near the victim, when everyone saw Brad Orgill fighting fiercely with the victim? How could they believe that the only person seen fighting the victim, who was covered in the victim's blood, was not the more likely assailant? How could they believe that a person could be stabbed in the heart and then just fly off to fight with someone else, shouting, "It's on! Let's go!"? How could they believe that an assailant would walk up to someone, stab him in the heart, and then refuse to take a swing at a second person who was egging him to fight? How could they think that an assailant who'd stabbed someone in the heart would have none of that person's blood on his clothing, not even in pockets that held the alleged murder weapon?

We were stunned when the guilty verdict came.

The pain we still feel over the jury's decision to convict grew to include unbounded frustration when we learned of an interview with one of the jurors.

On the eve of Todd's sentencing Brian Arnot interviewed one of the jurors:

Q: Do you think beyond a reasonable doubt that he did do it?
Juror: I don't know....
You can hear the context of that admission by clicking here.

We've played that audio recording for a number of people. Their response is always a sarcastic "so that's a jury of one's peers."

Unfortunately, the audio file you can listen to on the Internet is out of bounds for the judges. Such comments are inadmissible under Colorado's rules of evidence. Ironic, isn't it, that the trial court in Todd's case had no difficulty accepting into evidence a purported murder weapon, the condition of which had been altered while it was in police custody, but clear evidence that the jury did not understand its responsibilities is inadmissible.

The absence of a cure for juror incompetence should suggest to us all that juror education needs to become a higher priority.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The juror doesn't know if there was enough evidence to say he did it beyond a reasonable doubt yet he convicted him? I am stunned!