SAN JOSE – Six hours earlier than the federal choose declared a mistrial within the sexual assault trial of San Jose State’s former head athletic coach, she summoned the exasperated, deadlocked jurors again into the courtroom and urged them to proceed deliberating in good religion.
Nonetheless, she mentioned in that Thursday morning session, in case your opinion is sincerely held, don’t change your thoughts “primarily based solely on strain from different jurors.”
There was strain, alright.
The dragged-out drama behind closed doorways contained in the Robert F. Peckham Federal Constructing in downtown San Jose this previous week was “extraordinarily uncommon,” a nationwide jury professional says. Lower than 3% of all federal felony trials lead to hung juries and after they impasse, jurors are often intently break up.
On this San Jose case, nevertheless, the eight-woman, four-man jury was 11-1 in favor of guilt on one cost and 10-2 in favor on the remaining 5.
That the 2 holdouts within the sexual assault case had been each ladies, and all 4 males on the jury had been satisfied coach Scott Shaw was responsible, added much more complexity and perplexity to the jury room drama.
And the rancor spilled out in 14 jury notes despatched to the choose over 4 days.
“What will we do if 4 jurors consider a distinct particular juror will not be discharging his or her duties?” learn one of many notes.
“What if a juror is believing she is being compelled and coerced by different jurors?” learn one other notice. “What can that juror do?”
Finally, in open court docket, the choose admonished the jury and warned them towards “bullying or antagonizing” one another. But it surely didn’t matter. After 4 days, U.S. District Decide Beth Labson Freeman declared a mistrial.
“How actually, extremely irritating,” mentioned Valerie Hans, a Cornell College legislation professor who has written seven books on jury deliberations.
Prefer it or not, a unanimous verdict in felony trials is a bedrock of the U.S. justice system, reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court docket in Ramos v. Louisiana in 2020. “The unanimous jury is basically iconic,” Hans mentioned, “and the hung jury is a byproduct of it.”
So how did the San Jose State case come to this in a windowless jury room on the fifth ground of the federal courthouse, a room so small that jurors needed to pull of their chairs near the convention desk for one more to squeeze previous? The unsatisfying end result upended what was anticipated to be the ultimate chapter in a 14-year saga over San Jose State’s mishandling of dozens of complaints in regards to the head athletic coach that led to greater than $5 million in authorized settlements and the departures of the varsity’s athletic director and president.
From Day 1 of deliberations, jurors mentioned, at the least 10 of the 12 jurors had been satisfied that Shaw had groped and fondled feminine athletes below their sports activities bras and underwear with no respectable medical cause. They requested stacks of transcripts from testimony to influence and cajole one notably recalcitrant holdout: Juror No. 1.
However as Jeff Pickett, the presiding juror, instructed the Bay Space Information Group, “I laid throughout prepare tracks” to encourage Juror No. 1 to deliberate, “to do the whole lot inside my energy to see that justice is served.”
Even after what he known as his last-ditch “impassioned plea” to his fellow jurors Thursday morning, she by no means budged.
Within the very first straw ballot after they entered the jury room and Pickett requested whether or not anybody thought Shaw was not responsible on all six counts, Juror No. 1 “shot her hand up,” Pickett recounted Friday, and mentioned one thing like, “I’ll by no means change my thoughts.”
Juror No. 1, a 53-year-old engineer who didn’t wish to be recognized, didn’t see it precisely that method. “I got here with an open thoughts,” she instructed the Bay Space Information Group. “I really feel like once I (delivered) my ideas, the jury didn’t take heed to me.”
Stress grew over 4 days of deliberations, with the primary public signal of hassle coming Tuesday when one juror instructed the choose in a notice that at the least one different member of the jury was “unmovable.”
By Thursday morning, after the choose warned the jury in regards to the escalating rancor, Juror No. 1 mentioned a fellow juror questioned her psychological state. That’s when she determined to zip her lips and cease deliberating.
This primary expertise on a jury, Juror No. 1 mentioned, “was so horrible. I imply, for me, it’s a easy factor. Ladies have to face up, proper? For these eight ladies on this case, they rise up towards Scott Shaw. I encourage them, however for me I didn’t see sufficient proof to ensure that me to say he did it.”
One other juror, who was amongst those that believed Shaw was responsible, known as it “a miscarriage of justice.”
Will probably be as much as the U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace, which introduced six federal costs towards Shaw, to determine whether or not to retry the case, and there are some indications it’d. A listening to on the matter is scheduled for Monday morning within the courtroom of Freeman, who presided over the trial. With a mistrial, the case continues to be thought-about pending, and it’s doubtless the prosecutors will focus on whether or not they wish to retry the case or provide Shaw a plea deal.
“The large query is, do they provide it one other shot?” requested authorized analyst Steve Clark, a South Bay felony protection lawyer.
Within the Theranos case charging Elizabeth Holmes with defrauding buyers and sufferers about one-prick blood exams, jurors discovered her responsible on some counts however held on others – and the U.S. Lawyer declined to retry on these deadlocked costs.
Within the Ghost Ship warehouse trial in 2019, the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting the primary tenant Derick Almena of manslaughter within the 36 deaths of the party-goers who perished within the Oakland live-in inventive work area he operated. Almena accepted a plea deal forward of a brand new trial.
Within the Shaw case, prosecutors is likely to be in a superb place for a brand new trial, Clark mentioned.
“In a case like this, the place the jurors are more likely to say that you simply had a robust case however there was an aberration with jurors that both weren’t deliberating or went in very rigidly, I believe that will be extra inclined for them to retry the case,” he mentioned. “It wasn’t like there was a big flaw the place you possibly can say, ‘Each time we do that half the jurors are gonna assume a method and half the jurors are gonna assume the opposite.’”
Jury choice took a day-and-a half earlier than the trial started. Potential jurors crammed out questionnaires asking whether or not they had any historical past of sexual assault, and had been shortly questioned by legal professionals about whether or not they could possibly be truthful. Opening statements quickly adopted.
“That is how our democracy works,’’ mentioned Sue Bendavid, an employment litigator in Southern California. “While you go to trial, you by no means actually know what the end result shall be since you don’t know the background or the sentiments of the people who find themselves sitting in a field. That may positively impression how they hear proof or critique a witness, how they view their credibility and finally, what the decision goes to seem like.”
Pickett, the presiding juror, is the son and brother of felony legal professionals and works as a Silicon Valley product marketer. He volunteered to be the jury foreman and the others – together with one of many dissenters – agreed. He by no means imagined the job could be so taxing. He was nonetheless reeling Friday.
“How am I feeling? The primary feeling is unhappy. Unhappy for the ladies before everything,” Pickett mentioned, “and unhappy about how the justice system performed out.”