In 1994 I was called to be a jury in a rape case. A black man had supposedly attacked a young woman in a park, and raped her. He was apprehended by the police only hours later and faced up to 30 years in jail (including aggravated assault). I received the letter one morning and immediately was angry at it as it would waste much of my time in the coming months. However, I have a strong sense of honor, and felt it was my duty.

The interview was kind of weird. After the first questions by the judge, both parties went to ask questions about me and my opinions. First, the defendant had a public defendant who asked me almost no questions (for those not familiar with the law, with a jury trial, both parties select jury members according to strict rules). The prosecutor was very direct and, in my mind, completely unethical. He asked me some VERY direct questions. It went something like this:

PROSECUTION: Hello sir Glad to see you here. In your mind, do you think the defendant is guilty or not? ME: Uhhhh... I don't know, I didn't hear all the case details... PROSECUTION: Yes, but considering he was arrested by the police and they have a whole file on him... ME: I will wait to see the whole file on him.

At this point, I understood something. If I acted like I was racist, surely would they dismiss me from being part of the jury!! I thought about it for a second, thought about the month of underpaid work I'd saved, and decided it was worth a shot.

PROSECUTION: Consider the defendant. Do you think his 'situation' make him more likely to commit this crime? ME: Huhh... I don't know... PROSECUTION: A poor woman was viciously attacked, beat and raped. I think we can both agree it was a horrible crime? ME: Yes, absolutely. PROSECUTION: She described the man exactly as he is standing there. He was arrested and interrogated by the police. Do you agree this man might have committed this crime? ME: Yes, I do. PROSECUTION: What is your view on black people? ME(lies): Not particularly dislike them, but not particularly like them. PROSECUTION: Explain? ME(lies): They are human and they have a right to live, but I don't see them exactly like us.

The prosecution party seemed satisfied of the answers. Keep in mind this was in front of the judge and at this point I was 100% sure I would be dismissed, with a "RACIST" tag over my head forever.

Not at all.

I was informed a bit later, to my great surprise, that I would be part of the jury. If I could describe the case in one word, it would be: "long". It was terribly long. Hours and hours passed, hours became days and days became weeks. Then, each parties had its final hearing. To my surprise, the public defendant was doing a very decent job in front of the prosecution party.

Then, we went inside, all 12 of us, to discuss.

I had made my mind close to the end of the trial. He was not guilty. There was definitely not enough evidence to convict him. The woman had given (a really tearful) testimony but admitted she couldn't identify him. The police, after a few questions, had to admit they had no prior file of this man. An expert psychiatrist, hired by the defense, said the man was "happily married with childrens and unlikely to commit that kind of crime. But what really helped me make my mind was when the police admitted they had no DNA evidence at all (which was kind of new at the time). However, the police had a signed confession (which I supposed coerced) and the women had identified a mark the defendant had on the bottom of the neck. Also, he had no alibis and was, to his admission, "walking around at the time". Finally, a witness supposedly saw a man running away with the same clothes as the defendant.

The jury hearing looked like it would last less than an hour. By the 45-minutes mark, most jury member had made their minds: he was guilty. By the 1h15 mark, all jury members decided he was guilty.

Except for me.

I still wasn't convinced. I told them I would say he was not guilty. Everyone sighed. "For christ-sake this is the 5th time we vote, I think it's time we decide already". We kept talking, and one jury member even got mad: "ARE YOU SAYING THE 11 OF US ARE WRONG? Look at us, there are women and men alike here. This guy IS guilty." One even told me I was a "nigger-defendant" which made me doubt of the composition of the jury.

The day ended and we all went home.

I spent the night without sleeping. In the morning, I was even more sure: he was not guilty. And then came the second day, long as hell. A fat man became seriously mad and asked to get out (which he couldn't). I could feel, at the end of the day, that they were all mad at me.

Then came the third day and the 1235235th vote. Again, we failed to reach consensus. They all guessed who voted not guilty. Then, one man flipped out.

MAN: Look out son. I don't know what your freaking problem is... We have his confession. The woman identified him. A FREAKING WITNESS SAW HIM! What the fuck do you need? ME: I am not convinced by any of the evidence.

Then, things became weirder. The prosecution attorney came to talk to me. To my surprise, he was very kind to me.

PROSECUTION: Hey sir,I heard you thought the defendant was not guilty? ME: WHAT??? Sir, this is supposed to be confidential! PROSECUTION: And it will. Behind us. Sir, I just want to tell this: twenty police officers worked on it. Twenty. I wouldn't take a man to trial without the absolute proof he is guilty. ME: Thanks... I will consider it...

But I already made up my mind. Fourth day passed and at this point no one was talking. At the end of the fifth day, the judge made us all appear in front of us. Every jury member was looking at me.

JUDGE: Has the jury reached a verdict? CHIEF JURY: No, your honor. JUDGE (really surprised): Do you need more time to reach a verdict? CHIEF JURY: No, your honor. JUDGE: You... You don't think you can reach a verdict? CHIEFT JURY: No, your honor.

Everyone in the audience sighed. Not one second I put my head down. After a couple of days, a hung jury verdict was given. And everything was to be started again. My life took a turn to the worst, I was bullied, intimidated in my life. My car was frequently arrested by patrolling police officers for no reason. I started to think about moving out.

Two months later, before the new trial began, a man confessed to the crime at a police station. He was also black, although looked nothing like the first man, even in terms of weight/height. He gave a crying confession to which he admitted everything. Then, he gave details that were kept private (not shared with any outsider) and that he could in no way know unless he was the perpretator of the crime. He said he followed the long trial, and was tortured thinking about everything that happened. When the woman saw him, she immediately said it was him, and I had the feeling police told her it was the first black man who did it.

Later on he was convicted, served a prison time, and was released after many years. Sorry to make this so long. AMA.

TLDR: I was part of a jury for a rape case by a black man. Every jury member said he was guilty and I said he was not guilty. I caused a hung jury. The real criminal eventually surrendered to the police, gave precise case details no one else could know, and was convicted. AMA

EDIT: fixed gramatical mistakes

Comments: 675 • Responses: 11  • Date: 

[deleted]495 karma

Having been on jury duty myself I can assure you the system is broken beyond repair.

I have been to criminal jury duty a couple of times. Most of them plea bargained and didn't finish the jury but one in particular did. It was a black guy accused of burglarizing an apartment. Literally no evidence against the guy except the apartment managers word, and all he said was 'it probably was him, he was around a lot'. There was one fingerprint that literally had no 'print', it was just a white smear with no decipherable features at all. You could spit on tape and get more evidence than this provided.

Nobody in the jury room cared one shit about the 'evidence' they just wanted to go home. They said they didn't like how the defendant 'looked' so they just wanted to vote for guilty so they could leave.

One woman, the jury foreman was extremely racist and started shouting at me about how 'those people' pushed in her air conditioner and stole her mothers medicine when she lived in New York. Of course she meant black people, since the defendant was black.

There was literally no evidence at all in this particular case and after arguing with her for 10 whole minutes she just folded her arms and said 'fine we will all vote not guilty I dont care I just want to leave'.

And they all voted not guilty.

True story of American Justice.

head550 karma

Nobody in the jury room cared one shit about the 'evidence' they just wanted to go home. They said they didn't like how the defendant 'looked' so they just wanted to vote for guilty so they could leave.

Oh god yes. I know exactly what you mean.

One woman, the jury foreman was extremely racist and started shouting at me about how 'those people' pushed in her air conditioner and stole her mothers medicine when she lived in New York. Of course she meant black people, since the defendant was black.

I had one man in particular who was so racist he shouldn't be allowed to ever be in contact with people from other ethnicities. I don't mean "I hate blacks" racist, but "black is an impure race" kind of crap.

[deleted]308 karma

I hate to be repetitious, but you MUST file a complaint with your state's bar about the prosecutor coming to speak with you. That is absolutely against the rules, no exceptions. I know there was a favorable outcome for the guy, and you must be happy. Maybe you don't want to deal with it anymore and I understand that - but you can prevent a further injustice by making this man accountable for his actions. I can't even really believed this happened without him getting caught. Either way, good job standing up for your beliefs. Its people like you who have the ability to keep the system in check.

EDIT: Yeah, true - it was a very long time ago and there may be an SOL applied to complaints. Its still worth checking out, though.

EDIT 2: For the people saying its too late, do you know the state that the OP is in and the procedures for filing an ethics complaint? One poster said they could not find a SOL in Illinois and I could not find one in Florida. How do you know its too late? This prosecutor could have done this many more times since 1994 and if the OP brings it up, it could help to start an investigation into it. I'm guessing the people saying its too late know for a fact the specific SOL on ethics complaints in the state the OP did not mention and if they do would they mind sharing? I'm very curious.

[deleted]45 karma

Yeah. His voir dire questions to you - the ones you said were unethical - were just fine; in fact they were really good in terms of making sure you weren't prejudiced (not in the racial sense, but rather in the literal pre-judging-the-evidence sense). That aside, his talking to you was waaaaaay outside the bounds of ethics. You need to report him immediately. That would go for any attorney, but for a prosecutor - whose client is supposed to be justice and justice alone - that's beyond the pale.

head523 karma

What he said was illegal, no doubt there. In fact, as a jury member, I am not even allowed to talk to the defendant, let alone the prosecutor. That being said, I have thought about at least reporting this to the judge. I have came with the conclusion that 1-They wouldn't believe me, I had no paper proof 2-Would restart the case, this time with another jury, without my chance to actually cause a hang jury.

I have spoken about the prosecutor's attitude with a few people and have gotten a wide range of responses. Some say this is normal and a way to help avoid a hung jury. Most say it was absolutely disgusting and an obstuction to justice, which could lead the prosecutor to jail. That being said I do not think my testimony would have much stength.

[deleted]175 karma

Did you ever talk to any of the other jurors or the prosecutor after the right guy was convicted?

DisapprovingConsent288 karma

Did you rub it in THEIR FUCKIN' FACES?! God i hope you did.

head558 karma

Sort of. Jury's rules make it so votes are supposed to be anonymous (although everybody knew I was the one who voted not guilty) so it was impossible for the prosecutor or anybody to contact me directly. I did however speak with someone on the file once, but since he was a police officer, it was hard for me to say anything too direct. I did receive a letter from the court too.

head5194 karma

We talked after the case was declared a hung jury and they looked all sad, angry and very tired. I talked to two extensively (not just saying "hi") after, one before the real criminal was apprehended, one after. The second time was particularly emotive. It was a small lady who told me, crying, she had been bullied by the chief juror and never really believed he was guilty.

iorgfeflkd101 karma

From your story I take it you're not black. Were any of the other jurors black?

head5110 karma

I am white, we were 10 white people, one latino and one asian/american (Not very asian looking)

badjoke3375 karma

Did you lose money due to the police harassment?

Have you talked to a lawyer about it?

Did you ever get a chance to see the jurors afterward?

Any sort of commendation from anyone? A "well done" from the judge?

Did you ever talk to the accused afterward?

head528 karma

Did you lose money due to the police harassment?

No, not really. Most of the time I would get pulled, they would take my license and registration, take a long while to do nothing, and give me back my stuff, telling me to "get the **** out of here". I got two fines, I contested both and won (Actually they were both dismissed before the trial). So I did not lose money because of the harassment, although I did lose some time. I was pulled over for maybe 6-7 times.

Have you talked to a lawyer about it?


Did you ever get a chance to see the jurors afterward?

Yes, two of them.

Any sort of commendation from anyone? A "well done" from the judge?

I got a court letter but as I said, they couldn't know for sure I was the one who caused the hung jury (although most of them knew). They couldn't even know if we were 11 guilty 1 not guilty, or 11 not guilty 1 guilty (theorically).

Did you ever talk to the accused afterward?

No :( And this is what makes me sad. I would have loved to hear what he has done with his life, and what he thought of this whole story. Somehow I like to think I sent a good father back to his home, to teach his kids there is a justice after all and that he got his name and reputation cleared thanks to me.

aftli45 karma

I just wanted to say I read your entire story and I admire what you did. Really makes me think about how many people are wrongfully behind bars for crimes they didn't commit. It seems you saved that mans life.

What country are you from?

head519 karma

USA. Thanks a lot for the nice comments =)

limmah38 karma

Where was this case tried? Was it a place that might be more naturally prejudiced against blacks?

head519 karma

In the United States.

EDIT: If that helps, not in the states more to the north (not california/new york/etc)

txmslm13 karma

will you at least tell us if it was a major urban area or a small town? I would not really be surprised if it was a small town, but absolutely shocked at the behavior of the prosecutor it if was a major metropolitan city

head512 karma

Small town. Around 15,000 people, maybe 500 of them black (max)

[deleted]17 karma

I have nothing to say but good on you.

I've got jury duty coming up in a few months and I know exactly what I'm going to say to the DA.

"I shouldn't be here because you're the scum sucking fuckwad that let my sister's killer go free."

head511 karma

If I may... Jury duty takes a lot of time, but it's an experience. You will learn a lot on law and human psychology during the case. Plus, you will have the feeling of helping the law =)

ceslek13 karma

Why didn't you just inform the court that there was a leak in the jury and that he tried to change your mind about the decision?

Isn't that a serious offense, especially regarding the fact that the prosecution actually tried to have a conversation with you about it?..

head524 karma

It's a VERY serious offense and if noted by the defendant, it can invalidate the whole jury's verdict. However, this is in theory, sadly. It takes a skilled lawyer, and thus a lot of money, to actually prove it in court.

Another person asked why I didn't spoke to the judge. I want to say that in my opinion, the judge appeared to be fair and impartial. However, the way I saw it is that I had no proof to backup my sayings and that even if it worked, the case would have probably been retried, not dismissed, and that I wouldn't be part of the new jury.