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Reaching the verdict

And finally I complete my entries on this trial.

As a jury we had to piece together the events; the prosecution didn't present a very good timeline or diagram of their theory of exactly what happened (or if they did we couldn't remember). We were able to ask the judge for a recap of some of the testimony and to see some of the exhibits but we couldn't have the transcripts; it would be many months before the court reporter transcribed them.

We started out reviewing the testimony and trying to understand what happened. As time progressed we started dealing one-by-one with the charges against each defendant. Ventry Gordon was the person clearly seen to violently stab at least one of the victims multiple times. It wasn't too difficult to convict him of first degree murder with extreme cruelty and atrocity. Sean Lee was arrested that night wearing Jesse McKie's blood stained jacket and since he was also seen at the stabbing even if it wasn't clear that he did any stabbing, by joint venture he was also found guilty of first degree felony murder - felony because he was wearing the stolen leather jacker. Ron Settles was the van driver who was picked up by the police a bit later with two of the other accused in the van, clearly seen at the scene - our verdict was accessory to the crime.

The harder case was that of Ricardo Parks. He was wearing a light colored jacket (the only person dressed that way) that had spot of blood on it that was identified to be that of a victim. No witness could place him close to the action. Early in this phase of the deliberation, as she had done for each defendant, the foreperson asked for a straw poll to see where we initially stood. The vote was 11-1 for guilty. I was the 1. I explained that I wasn't sure but that we needed to do more work before committing. As we worked through the scenarios and witness testimonies it became clear to everyone that he was quite far away from the other defendants during the stabbings. By our understanding of joint venture and premeditation it seemed that we couldn't pin him with any crime. He was not near, the premeditation if any was spontaneous. It may be true that they were all out to make trouble but there was no evidence that they were out to kill. Since witnesses said that the stabber was waving his knife around ( I don't remember if more than one person was seen with a knife) and then grabbed the jacket from McKie that a spot of blood could have easily landed on his coat. There was blood in lots of places. So we acquitted Ricardo.

After we delivered our verdicts, the judge came into the jury room to meet with us. She thanked us for our hard work and gave us some background. I recall that she said that Sean Lee had a second degree manslaughter charge from a prior crime and Ventry Gordon also had a record of some form. Ricardo Parks had no record. She didn't say it outright but it was pretty clear from what she was saying that she thought we got it right. Of course we'll never know if we did, but it was quite clear that there wasn't enough evidence to convict him. The sentencing was a later hearing where we weren't present and had no part in.

So the end result of the activities on this horrid night was that a lot of lives were ruined. Two young men were dead, two were in prison for life-without-parole (Lazelle Cook whose trial was separate and later) was also convicted of first degree murder and received a life imprisonment sentence. Ron Settles was sentenced to several years in prison and Ricardo Parks was able to finish high school.

Our jury bonded very well (we did spend a huge amount of time together) with few serious conflicts. We did have a reunion at one juror's house that summer.

It was a great experience. It was a lot of responsibility and a lot of work. I am very happy to have been chosen to serve on that jury.

As I mentioned earlier there was a separate trial later for the other defendant. This blog by Dan who was on that Jury describes his experience.

Garden of PeaceAnd the families and friends of the victims must live with the ugly memories.

There is a memorial for victims of homicide including Jessie McKie at the Garden of Peace in downtown Boston. The Garden of Peace's location was threatened for a while with the erection of a large Suffolk University Dorm but all plans for that project have recently been dropped. Jesse McKie's parents are local artists - Todd McKie, his father does delightful paintings which I've seen on exhibit at several locations; Judy McKie is a furniture maker and sculptor. I don't know anything about Rigaberto Carrion's family.

And my apologies to anyone if I got some facts or nuances wrong.

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Might I inquire, who will do the sentencing? And on what basis? The Supreme Court has just declared that judges can't do sentencing based on anything not determined by a jury. It's reverberating rather a lot here in California.

In Massachusetts there is no death penalty although there have been various unsuccessful attempts to reinstate it. There is a mandatory life-with-no-parole for first degree murder. So the judge would have no discretion. I don't know how which prison is chosen or whether it is automatic.

One question that I've had: is life with no parole really absolute or is there a process (parole board, governor, etc.) where parole can be given? If so what are the circumstances and practices whereby someone can be paroled?

Oh boy, I wish I could answer that for you. But it's wildly variable, both across states and over the past 20 years. Some states have banned parole altogether in the name of maintaining consistent, fair sentencing. Others have continued it, with the whole associated "good behavior" reductions. It's been a victims' rights issue. I understand the point: the shorter prison stays tend to be white guys [sic], so you gotta wonder about the selective allocation of privileges to prisoners.

I am very glad that you held out. You made a huge difference in that man's life.

thank you for sharing that experience with us, john.

This has been an interesting read.

If you had been Canadian, you would not have told us this. Under Canadian law, what happens in a jury room is absolutely confidential, and may not be discussed or reported. (there is a very narrow exception if a juror(s) is subsequently prosecuted for malfeasance in the discharge of juror's duties - this was invoked a couple of years back when one of the jurors turned out to have started an affair with one of the accused in a biker trial in Vancouver). There are fairly big framed signs reminding you about this in every jury pool room (and, I suspect, in the room the jurors repair to for their deliberations).

(me, I was in a pool for two weeks and never made it onto a jury -- the card with my name on it didn't even come out of the random-draw drum until Wednesday of week 1. The closest I came was standing right next to the person who became Juror 12 on a criminal fraud case)

While jurors won't get into hot water for talking about it in anodyne terms (it took ages / they fed us well/badly / I was so glad not to be the foreman), anything specific isn't tolerated. Jurors are never identified or photographed; so the jury members after a high-profile case going on the talk-show circuit just would not happen here -- and I'm fairly sure I prefer it that way. [I'm NOT suggesting you-John would do this...] that juror in ?the OJ trial was it? who showed up in Star Trek outfits would have been had up for contempt so fast, his/her head would have spun.

Different cultures, I guess. Two countries separated by a common language.

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