Guilty, just not beyond a reasonable doubt

Don Martelli reports he served on a Suffolk County jury last week in which all the jurors knew the defendant was guilty but voted to acquit him because the prosecutors and police failed to provide the needed evidence:

It's a slippery slope in terms of what you THINK happened versus what you can PROVE happened. It's up to the Commonwealth to provide the proof -- via physical evidence or testimony -- that the accused is guilty of the charges. In this case, we had some cursory evidence, but nothing that tied him to that crime, on that day, at that moment, in those circumstances.

Each juror was frustrated. We knew we were letting a criminal get back on the streets. We knew that he was guilty, but couldn't prove it. We all felt awful.



Free tagging: 


    Loads of circumstantial evidence

    By The OP on

    Like I said in a comment below, we had loads of circumstantial evidence but nothing concrete. Our collective "gut" told us that he was guilty, but we just couldn't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

    If you couldn't prove it

    Then you don't know he's guilty. Jury of his peers, indeed. The defendant was dumb enough to attract enough attention to end up in court, and this juror is apparently also an idiot.

    That's pretty harsh

    By on

    Will, I hope you get picked for jury duty soon.

    I suspect it's common that juries know they should convict but just can't. I was a juror on a rape of a minor case where we all KNEW the defendant was guilty but there was too little evidence to convict him. The victim couldn't give a specific date for the crime. She'd been so traumatized that she didn't tell her mother for about a month. Then her only witness didn't show up, and one of the two police involved didn't appear, either. The defendant remained silent and his lawyer didn't call witnesses, cross examine, or do much besides sit there. We had almost nothing to go on except the strong sense that the victim was truthful. But her testimony was too sketchy for us to arrive at a guilty verdict.

    Although there was very little testimony to review, we deliberated for three agonizing days. The judge was impatient with us; he saw it as cut and dried. He refused to allow us to visit the crime scene, which would have helped us. Afterward, the DA told us that the witness never appeared because she was also a rape victim heading to court against the same guy, her stepfather. There was additional, damning information that had been withheld from us, too, that we heard from the DA as we were leaving. It was a horrible, eye-opening experience. And we were not idiots. We were thoughtful people trying to fulfill our obligation.

    I don't think jurors are idiots

    I should have clarified better. To say "we knew he was guilty" is an idiotic statement. You only see the evidence you see, and I can't blame a juror for that. I simply hope that the thinking verbalized there doesn't factor into actual deliberation of the facts.


    By The OP on

    We didn't "know" he was guilty, but common sense and circumstantial evidence told us he was.

    The standard jury

    By on

    The standard jury instructions provide that circumstantial evidence can be enough, and that jurors are encouraged to use their common sense and life experience.


    By The OP on

    Right back at you. And thanks for reading.

    How it works

    By on

    This is exactly the way the jury system is supposed to work. It's called evidence. The state has to make its case. This is to avoid the old "I can just tell" school of law enforcement. Imagine if the police could lock you up "just 'cause the guy looks guilty."

    Well, not so fast...

    By on

    I was on a a jury a few years back where something similar happened. A rape case, where the only evidence the state provided was that the DNA swab from the victim (from her skin..) mostly matched the DNA of the accused. No details about his whereabouts, his alibi, etc - just DNA. So the defense asked the DNA lab worker (no, not THAT lab worker) if she ever went against protocol and blew into the tubes she used to dry them out faster. She said she did. So, DNA is compromised, and since it's the ONLY evidence we were given, it was not "beyond reasonable doubt." At least it wasn't for half of us - we ended up a hung jury.

    Worst jury experience of my life. There were fights, 2 people who looked down on the others because they didn't have the medical training they had, someone who bolted from the jury after a fight and so we needed to start over, with an alternate, as a new jury... all over the holidays, ruining everyone's holiday plans. Started Dec 8, ended Dec 28 or so. I still blame the state for not offering any evidence other than DNA - we all knew he PROBABLY was guilty, but we (half of us) could not prove it.

    Jury nullification is a two way street.

    By on

    The jury can find a guilty man innocent because they don't like the law, or they can find a technically innocent man guilty because they think he did it. The jury was so wrong in this instance.

    I disagree

    By on

    No the jury worked with the evidence they were given and there were far too many jumps in logic to be beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Judge & Jury

    By on

    I would also like to know how this guy "knew" the defendant was guilty.

    I'd also like to talk to him about his excessive use of commas.

    How I knew and commas

    By The OP on

    First off, I love commas. They are correct, or should I say, correct because I think they are correct. This guy is a former reporter and follows AP style, but relied on copy editors to clean up my commas. So, whatever.

    I can't talk about the case details. However, there was enough circumstantial evidence to put the suspect in in possession of a certain item on three different occasions. However, on the date in question, we couldn't put him in possession of said item.

    We also spoke to the judge who basically confirmed our gut reaction to the evidence introduced in court.

    Common sense led us to believe he was guilty but you can't hang a mans life on belief. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt and all that.

    And oh, three more comma, just for you. Enjoy.

    The details

    By The OP on

    You can't talk about the details of the case, the specifics. I haven't.

    Tattoos are usually a dead

    By on

    Tattoos are usually a dead giveaway. Before anyone gets offended, of course I'm drawing a distinction between wimpy hipster body art and real tats.

    What a coincidence--I use

    By on

    What a coincidence--I use 'willingness to judge people criminals based on non-criminal behaviors' as my determination of guilt. Better hope you don't draw me as a juror the next time you're up on charges. Ass.

    Had the same experience...

    By on

    I served on a jury where the credible evidence was from the prosecution and I didn't believe the defense story at all. But... The prosecution didn't meet their burden of proof and we had to acquit. The defendant was black and jury foreman was black. I briefly held out for a conviction but caved when they convinced me there wasn't enough evidence. (How black people would go from JP to Charlestown is completely different that white people would route themselves.) I chatted with the foreman afterwards and he said not to worry. If the guy was a crook he'd end up in jail for something else. He wasn't convinced by the defense argument either. On the other hand, the burden on the prosecution makes real sure the government doesn't just jail people because they feel they're guilty. That's a good thing in the end. Really.

    How black people would go from JP to Charlestown ... ?

    I know it's a diversion from this thread, but could you amplify that statement? It doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    (If I were going from JP to Charlestown by public transit, I'd take the Orange Line. By bike, I'd take the Southwest Corridor path into Back Bay then wind my way through downtown to the Charlestown Bridge. By car, I'd take Jamaicaway, Riverway, Fenway etc. to Storrow Drive to Leverett Circle to the Gilmore Bridge. Is there some reason I'd do it differently if black?)

    Circumstantial evidence might be enough to convict?

    By on

    Last time I was on a jury the judge said circumstantial evidence is good evidence. Don't remember whether he said a case based soley on circumstantial evidence is strong enough to convict.

    If the State's Attorney chooses to prosecute then I assume they have sufficient evidence to convict. If they don't make a good enough case to convict then there is a problem with the prosecutor's office.

    I'll confirm the evidence was circumstantial

    By on

    The problem that all the circumstantial evidence led to something which wasn't the crime itself. There had to be another jump in logic which simply could not be made beyond a reasonable doubt.