Hernandez: The 7 to 5 Jury

AAron smilingHernandez’s jury has been out since last Tuesday. It received the case after listening to the closing arguments by counsel and the judge instructing it on the law. The judge’s instructions took an 81 plus minutes which seems to be quite lengthy given that the case involved only one defendant and the issues quite straightforward.

The jury’s composition is seven women and five men; a white middle-age woman with dark hair is the foreperson of the jury. She is the one who will set the stage on how the deliberations are to take place. She was appointed by the judge.

Wednesday and to mid-morning Thursday the jury asked questions relating to possession of the gun and the date when Hernandez possessed the .22 ammunition. Unusual questions considering that it was deciding whether he committed a murder and these seemed minor matters in the big picture. The rest of Thursday, four hours Friday, and six hours Monday, minus a smoking break, the deliberations continued and except for the request for the smoking break nothing has been heard back from the jury.

It would seem that whatever confusion existed as shown by the early questions over the law as set out in the judge’s instructions has been clarified and the jurors are down to considering the facts. The lawyers who tried the case are feeling the tensions of this lengthy deliberations. The early indications pointed to a favorable result for Hernandez but now it is anyone’s guess as to what is happening. Any question now from the jury would be welcome by the lawyers as a cool glass of water to a parched man since it would give an indication to them of what was happening. Each time a court officer moves toward them, or a door opens, or some unusual movement occurs around them their stomachs jump.

Reflecting on this I thought of the 7 to 5 composition of the jurors. I had a case with seven women and five men where the foreperson was also a woman. It was a case that normally would have been disposed of in district court the charges being an attempt to break and enter into a gas station at night. The reason I was trying it at superior court was the defendant had been released from prison a few months prior to the time he was arrested for this crime. He had been serving a life sentence for murder but because of some legal technicality he was released and could not be tried again. He was not someone who should have been on the street in my opinion.

He was willing to plead guilty to a few months in jail; I thought he should go back to prison for the maximum which was ten years so it had to be tried. It wasn’t a complicated case and took only a day or two to put in the evidence. We tried it in July and it was very hot. When the jury was set to begin deliberations the judge let the jury deliberate in the courtroom which was the only air-conditioned place available.

A couple of tables were put together to form one long table inside the bar and twelve chairs arranged around it. I expected a quick verdict but Thursday turned into Friday and the jury was still out. Just shortly after noon on Friday we were told the jury had a question. We went into the courtroom which was now the jury room so the judge could answer it.

The jurors stayed in their seats at the table. I looked at them to see what I could discern. I saw bad news for myself. The seven women were bunched together at one end of the table and the five men at the other. They were separated by a good three feet. It was obvious two sides had been formed who were vying with each other. The women looked angry; the men beaten down. After the question was answered we left the courtroom.

I went up to the defendant’s lawyer in the hot corridor and said “congratulations, nice win.” He nodded and thanked me. We both knew that the men were not going to spend anytime more than absolutely necessary on a hot Friday afternoon in a contest with their foe. They had no idea about the defendant’s background. The charges were neither here nor there. They held the keys to their freedom in their pockets. Baseball and beer beckoned. All they had to do was give up. Within the hour the defendant was a free man again.

I’m not suggesting that is happening in the Hernandez case. It’s just that the composition of this jury brought back that memory.

4 thoughts on “Hernandez: The 7 to 5 Jury

  1. A sad tale, Matt. I don’t see anything worse than a hung jury in the Hernandez case. The prosecution could streamline its case the second time around, if there is one. The late Tom Puccio, a top-notch federal prosecutor, always believed that the prosecution had the edge in retrials.

    1. Dan:

      It was good it wasn’t a hung jury. Tom Puccio might have believed the prosecution had an edge in a retrial but I never felt it. I always thought the first trial was my best shot at a defendant; not bringing home the bacon after that made me wonder. I could refine the evidence and try to straighten up its weakness but good defense counsel would always be able to hammer away at the same thing. One case I remember is the original jury tied 6 to 6 and on the retrial it again went 6 to 6. Each case the defendant had a different experienced defense counsel. I wasn’t helped by the first trial. But everyone has a different experience but it is good we don’t have to go through the same show again.

      1. For sure, Matt. I hope we get a clearer picture of Hernandez ‘ s motive as time goes by. Probably a drug – fueled paranoid fantasy about Lloyd. Maybe one of his mates will tell the story.

        1. Dan:

          You just gave us the motive – no use looking further – the curse of a brain addled by continual drug use.

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