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Jury Duty Follow-up

The second jury found the defendant guilty on all counts. As I said earlier this year, I’m at ease with my decision. Now that the case is over, I am comfortable saying that I think the defendant probably did it — I just didn’t think the evidence at hand proved it beyond a reasonable doubt.

There were no eyewitnesses who could identify the defendant as the shooter, although the shooter was inside a car which was clearly the defendant’s. He and his girlfriend certainly acted like people who wanted to hide their car after the murder. If I knew my car has been used to commit a crime, and I was living the life this guy was leading, I don’t think I’d be too optimistic about telling the police that it was my car but it wasn’t me.

The police didn’t bother tracking down some crucial evidence, particularly around the timing of a visit to a car wash. The defendant’s cousin said the visit was before the murder; the police said it was after. The timing matters for a few reasons, so why not just get the security footage to eliminate the uncertainty? It felt a lot like they were confident that they could just say what they believed to be true and win the case. I didn’t see any signs of lying or ill intent — just a casual approach. Or even an overworked approach.

The jury heard that one eyewitness identified the defendant in a lineup with a 75% certainty. We did not hear that the other eyewitness at the lineup said that the defendant was “absolutely not” the shooter. That second eyewitness is living without a home, and couldn’t be located, and you can’t reference second-hand testimony. None of that was part of my decision, because we didn’t know that during the trial. Still.

The tragedy here is that Zula Werede is dead, not that the defendant is going to spend a lot of time in jail. His death alone is tragic, but whatever happened was terribly random. Why was Herr, or whoever, driving through that parking lot at just the right time? (No indication that Werede was followed.) We’ll never know.

The defendant probably did it. There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing that way. I’m not sad he was found guilty, but one of the things the trial really brought home for me was how little jail time is going to mean. Many of the witnesses were living subsistence level, desperate, addicted lives. We don’t address the causes.


  1. P. Johnson P. Johnson

    I was on the 2nd jury and at the time was not aware that the there was a previous jury trial that was not able to come to a verdict. We learned this information at the end when we were allowed to ask questions of both the Defense and Prosecution. Thank you for your service and offering your valuable time to be seated. I believe whole heartedly in the jury system.

    • Thank you for your service as well. It was quite the case, and I hope that at least Zula’s friends have a bit of peace.

  2. Juror #11 Juror #11

    I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comments, but I believe you missed the mark. No credible exculpatory evidence was presented during the first trial, and despite nearly two weeks (!) of painstaking deliberations. no juror provided even a single reasonable, believable alternative to the prosecution’s narrative. There was the occasional “But what if…?”, but credulity had to be stretched beyond recognition to achieve even that. As one of those initial jurors, I became convinced by the arguments I heard and the plausible alternatives I did not hear that a case of jury nullification was afoot. Your comments here do nothing to dissuade me of that belief.

    • Hm. I wrote a long comment but I think I came too close to breaching confidentiality, unfortunately. I’ll just say that I appreciate your comment but I walked out of that room believing in the good intentions of all the jurors, including those who disagreed with me.

      • Juror #11 Juror #11

        I would agree with your “good intentions” sentiment. But I think that the three not-guilty votes invite more specific evaluation, as well. My take? One juror, though very thoughtful and diligent in his assessment of the case, merely misapplied the “reasonable doubt” standard. The other two jurors voting for acquittal did so, in my opinion, as a result of pre-existing bias (of which they may or may not have been aware) that effectively dictated their vote even before deliberations began. Which is not to say that those two jurors would not have voted guilty under any circumstances. Had the evidence presented in court been inarguably convincing and absolutely unimpeachable (which it was not), I suspect those jurors would have come to the same decision as did nine of their fellow jurors. But the prosecution, of course, was not legally required to present inarguably convincing evidence; their burden was to present evidence that convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. That the prosecution met that burden was, unfortunately, not sufficient to overcome the predilections (conscious or not) of those two jurors.

        • I don’t think we can talk about the specific case in any more detail without risking the privacy of deliberations —- not a legal standard, but my own personal ethical standard. So I’m going to leave that where it stands.

          The question of “reasonable doubt” is fascinating. I did some research after the trial. I had no idea that some scholars claim it was originally intended to counterbalance overly high standards!

          The conclusions reached in this paper are the author’s opinions, not law. Nevertheless it serves as an interesting guide to the ways the phrase “reasonable doubt” have been interpreted over time.

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