Jury Foreman William Zervakos: Was His Age An Issue?

By | May 27, 2013

I’ve had two or three loyal readers take the time to write comments about William Zervakos and his age. William Zervakos is nearly 70 years old and the woman on trial was only 27 at the time she murdered Travis Alexander.

Should a 70-year-old man judge a 27-year-old woman? Should a Native American judge a non-Native American? Should people with blond hair judge brunettes? Should really tall people judge really short people?

Jodi DP4

All of those questions are easily answered when you realize that none of those questions are valid. Who should judge who is specified in the American criminal justice system. Follow the rules of the system and the questions of who should be on the jury are all answered. Once picked to be on the jury, everything is kosher. But the system is just a little bit more complicated than that. It’s not like, you just pick the first 12 people to show up for jury duty. In reality, a pool of potential jurors reports for jury duty. One at a time, each potential juror is questioned and then either approved and accepted as a juror or rejected.

The magic, if there is any, is in that questioning of the potential juror. This is the place where the prosecution and defense tries to pick the right people. The right people will be those jurors who will be most likely to bring the desired verdict. I mentioned in a previous article that in more important cases the defense team will spend relatively large sums of money to bring in consultants from the mental health field, to help pick each jury member. That’s the magic of it all.

How does age factor into this? Directly, it does not factor in at all. Indirectly, it may be a factor. William Zervakos brought up the issue of age when he commented in a number of places about how “young” Jodi Arias appeared. What can we tell from this? From William Zervakos’ perspective Jodi Arias appeared “young.” We know that because he told us that, repeatedly when interviewed. Is Jodi Arias young? It’s a matter of perspective. If at 27, she had called a pediatrician to schedule an appointment for a physical, the receptionist would have told her “you’re too old.” If your 17-year-old child comes home and tells you that they want to date a 27-year-old, you are likely to say “that’s too old.”

Let’s look to scientific design for just a moment. When designing an experiment, we would like to eliminate every variable except our variable choice. This is the independent variable. Not to sound too much like my university lectures but there can be more than one independent variable. It’s our job to eliminate the other independent variables. If we do not, those other unintended independent variables, could be responsible for the results of our experiment and at that time would be called confounding or extraneous variables.

It is not age itself that is the issue. In reality it’s the confounding variables that are the issue. Age tells us nothing, at least not directly. People of widely varying ages belong to different American cultures. We can’t say that with certainty each individual is different but we can say with certainty that it is the totality of individuals that make up, create a culture.

Age means nothing in itself. It is those things that are associated with age that can mean something.

Here’s another mind game for you to solve. Imagine two individuals. One is 92 years of age and the other 17 years of age. They both have iPods. You sneak into their rooms at night and steal each of their iPods. You place them in a black cloth bag that you purchased just for future burglaries. You then return home, with your bag of goodies, with the same excitement you had when you were younger and returning from a night of trick-or-treating. You open the bag. You have two iPods but they are both the same model. You hook up your earbuds and sample the songs on each iPod. Both iPods look exactly the same because they are both the same model.

Here’s the problem, the one you are supposed to solve. Can you tell whose iPod is whose? Now before you answer that question, let’s make it more interesting. I walk into your room and see you contemplating your new ill-gotten gains. I ask you where you got the iPods and you honestly tell me that you stole them and a little bit about the people you stole them from. You tell me one’s 92 and one’s 17. I say to you, “hey let’s make this interesting. I’ll bet you $10 that you can’t tell me which iPod belonged to the 92-year-old and which one belonged to the 17-year-old.” Do you take that bet?

Now let’s make even more interesting. I then produce my own black bag containing 100 identical iPods, 50 of which were stolen from 92-year-olds and 50 from 17-year-olds. That’s 100 iPods. I say to you, “would you like to bet $10 an iPod? If you can correctly identify each stolen iPod as belonging to a 92-year-old or a 17-year-old, I will give you $10 per iPod. If you can’t do it or you’re wrong, you’ll give me $10 an IPod.” Do you take the bet?

I think you do. Think about what that means. We are talking about cultural issues. We are talking about why defense teams spend big bucks to bring in psychological consultants to help them with jury selection. Remember, in the above mindgame, you’re not going to get 100 iPods right. You cannot know with certainty anything about someone based on age. Nonetheless, if you go out and steal 100 iPods and you bring them to me and offer me the $10 per iPod bet, I’m not only going to take that bet I am sincerely going to ask you if we can increase that to $1000 per iPod and then I’m going to retire early and devote myself full-time to this blog.

Back to William Zervakos. I have absolutely no reason to think that he has done anything wrong. He was chosen as a juror. He was asked to be the evaluator of truth and he did just that. He evaluated the evidence and gave us his judgment. Later after being dismissed and thanked by the judge for his service, he gave interviews to the media.

He tried to give us an explanation as to what thoughts went through his mind as a juror. We might disagree with those thoughts or some of his thoughts. I’m sure, that I do not agree with everything that he has reported but we do not have to agree. Other jury members, did disagree with him. We know that because he reported that.

The jurors disagreed in their deliberations. You and I can disagree.

I hope we will agree on this one point. William Zervakos’ age was not an issue. You can be 70 and look 50. You can be 70 and think like a 27-year-old. You can be 70 and have the same music on your iPod as a 17-year-old.

37 thoughts on “Jury Foreman William Zervakos: Was His Age An Issue?

  1. Danny

    “Back to William Zervakos. I have absolutely no reason to think that he has done anything wrong…”

    I believe he did do something wrong because I think he and the other three who refused to give Arias the death penalty lied to get on the jury. They said they could give the death penalty if the evidence warranted it. How much worse would she have had to have butchered Travis before those four idiots thought it was enough for the death penalty they said they could give her? Maybe she didn’t shoot him enough times? Or maybe she should have gutted him and left his intestines lying in the bathroom floor? Or completely decapiated him instead of “almost”?

    But I do agree with you that his age was not an issue. Just his stupidity.

    1. Lisa K

      There is a lot of misunderstanding about what a “death penalty certified” juror is. If a juror feels that there are no mitigating factors then they are to vote for the DP. If a juror believes that there is a mitigating factor, they are instructed to weigh that mitigating factor and decide if they should vote against the DP.

      “E. The trier of fact shall impose a sentence of death if the trier of fact finds one or more of the aggravating circumstances enumerated in subsection F of this section and then determines that there are no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to call for leniency … G. The trier of fact shall consider as mitigating circumstances any factors proffered by the defendant or the state that are relevant in determining whether to impose a sentence less than death, including any aspect of the defendant’s character, propensities or record and any of the circumstances of the offense.” Arizona Statue 13-751

      Zervakos believed there was a mitigating factor. I haven’t heard him say what the mitigating factor was for him. We can speculate all we want, but only he knows unless he decides to share. Unless he says “I believe that abcxyz ia a mitigating factor”, speculating based on phrases he uses is worthless.

      I think it is entirely possible that Zervakos’ beliefs about the DP evolved throughout this 5 month ordeal. Maybe they didn’t. But I am not willing to label Zervakos a liar because he voted against the DP. In the selection process, Zervakos would have been asked under which conditions he felt the DP would be an appropriate sentence. Both sides agreed to him as a juror.

  2. GiGi

    I don’t think age had anything to do with it but I do think he did not follow instructions. I think 3 agreed with him because they looked to him for guidance. The rest were able to think on their own.

    1. Terri LaValle

      I think you may be on to something there…..Because he was foreman, maybe the three looked to him as some kind of leader and acted accordingly. Too bad really……………

  3. NancyB

    Interesting thoughts by lawyer Jeffrey Evan Gold yesterday morning:
    (Jeff was in the courtroom each day)

    Tweets have to be >140 characters. Lawyers hardly think in less than 1400 characters. I’ll expand a #jodiarias tweet here in good old FB that was too cryptic in twittereze. However, its a detail of case than I would not usually post in FB which I leave for broad topics not tweeter minutia . So now my FB friend s may be just as confused by my clarification to my twitter followers. But here goes. The court announced to media a question by was coming not a verdict. The public information office had a 1hr delay for verdict agreed but not so on Qs. Hung juries are not verdicts and we all knew (at least talking to me) that hung juries come as Qs simply because they are not final until the judge declares a mistrial. They are not verdicts which must be unanimous and you can’t be unanimous about not being unanimous. Doesn’t work that way. Now we now know that the jury foreman was in minority and pro life. He almost immediately the day before asked jury Q to judge what happens if we are deadlocked. Judge gave what is called a dynamite charge which says go back and break the logjam in other words keep debating. The foreman controls debate and votes often. In this case being in minority did he steer case to a hung jury by not encouraging true debate? Because he was in minority? Well when we got into court fie that second question, all were present but no Arias family which like we thought it was just a Q. When the judge read the jury has a verdict many were shocked. Wow a verdict! This is over! I now think the judge was shocked too because if you watch her face on tape (could not see in court) she appears so when she then gets to the non verdict part of the verdict… we cannot reach a unanimous verdict. Some mistake her look for sympathy for Alexanders. But it was disappointment I think that verdict was nit reached after a glimmer if hope raised when she saw verdict form instead of a Q. Which brings me back to the forman who choose to use verdict form rather than report jury was still hung and could not reach a verdict. Did he do this on purpose? To make his point that the jury was done and did not want another dynamite charge? He was in minority after all and debate more often sways minority. We will never know. Judge could have not accepted non verdict verdict and asked parties if they wanted another charge. A second charge is always appeal ready though anyway. So it was declared a mistrial. Its a small twitter type point, not grand FB one, but I just wonder how much the foreman who ended up on GMA next day really did his job to get a verdict vs being happy to get out of there with the ball still in Life’s court, which was his vote. He certainly could not get on TV fast enough to persuade the public of his view. Just sayin’.
    __________________

    1. Tori

      That’s really interesting NancyB. So the jury used the verdict form when submitting their lack of a verdict, leading Judge Sherry to believe they had reached a verdict. Had they used the question form, Judge Sherry would have been able to send them back one more time.

  4. Lisa K

    I’m completely stumped. This post is in direct conflict with your previous post on Zervokas. I don’t think you are aware of the contradictions.

    You address one of my comments in this post. I appreciate that. You also dismiss one of my points as invalid when it’s not. My point was that jurors were selected samples of our communities. My point was that we shouldn’t have blacks judging blacks, old judging old, etc.

    To quote myself:
    “Jurors are a selected sample of our community peers. Are we supposed to toss potential jurors because the don’t fit our own biases? Are we going to start requiring IQ tests? Should only black citizens be allowed to judge black defendants or serve on cases in which the victim was black? Should women only be jurors for female defendants or victims?”

    Obviously, I thought that my first sentence answered the questions that followed. In addition, I was addressing both the article by DrK AND the comments made by others. I apologize for my apparent lack of clarity.

    Your confound variable example is excellent. However, you forget that you are arguing a specific in regards to Zervakos. The confounds discussed in your previous post link the confound variables directly to age. You do the courtesy of acknowledging that we shouldn’t be too stereotypical in our assumptions about those confounds, but let’s again look at what you said.

    Previously you said:
    “Zervakos should never have been on that jury. He said that when he came into the courtroom on the first day, he found it hard to believe that Jodi Arias was the killer. He went on to say that she looked so young and did not look at all like a killer. So what does that tell us about Zervakos?

    He thinks he knows what a killer looks like. Now he really doesn’t know what a killer looks like because if he did, he would know that killers look like mousy little brunettes with long straight hair, poor bangs, and glasses.

    Zervakos is close to 70 years of age. He keeps referring, in his interviews, to Jodi being so young and only 27 years of age when she committed the crime. To this man of 70, 27 seems young. He was hesitant, in fact unwilling to give the death penalty to someone so young and so immature. … Plus, she didn’t look like a killer.

    Zervakos is of course wrong. Twenty-seven years of age is not young. Not young in the way he’s thinking of it, as an age where sufficient maturity is not to be expected and mistakes and poor judgment are to be expected…”

    Today you say:
    “Who should judge who is specified in the American criminal justice system. Follow the rules of the system and the questions of who should be on the jury are all answered. Once picked to be on the jury, everything is kosher.”

    So, do you now acknowledge that Zervakos should have been on that jury or not?

    Let’s face it. Had Zervakos voted for death and said the same exact things in his interview about JA’s age, you and most commentors would have no problem with his age and his shock at her youth. You are assuming that JA’s age was the or a mitigating factor for Zervakos. There is absolutely no evidence that Zervakos thought age was a mitigating factor. To my knowledge, Zervakos hasn’t stated his mitigating factor. (I’m not aware of any interview in which he stated his mitigating factors. I’ve think I’ve watched all of his interviews but maybe not. If there is a source in which Zervakos states his mitigating factor(s), I would love to know where that is.)

    1. gatneeland

      “Let’s face it. Had Zervakos voted for death and said the same exact things in his interview about JA’s age, you and most commentors would have no problem with his age and his shock at her youth. You are assuming that JA’s age was the or a mitigating factor for Zervakos.”

      Exactly! No one is complaining about the woman juror who voted for death yet also commented about how young and innocent Jody looked when they first entered the courtroom.

      Agreeing that you will vote for the death if you deem it the appropriate is not the same as agreeing that you will vote for the death penalty no matter what. There reasons there are 3 phases to the trial in AZ: guilt, aggravation and sentence is because the 2nd is NOT equivalent to the third. If finding aggravating factors existed meant that death was called for automatically, then AZ wouldn’t have the third phase which then determining when death should be applied. If the only mitigating factors that could be used were the ones pointed out in the penalty phase, then AZ law would say so.

      What I find most disturbing about his how dialogue here and across the country is that people who felt she deserved to be put to death refuse to believe that there are people who are capable of finding that she “qualifies for death” yet found mitigating factors not put her to death.

      They believe that 4 who voted against death “hung” the jury, when in reality all the jurors hung the jury neither side would budge. But the 8 are heroes and the 4 are villains. The 8 had good reasons, the 4 had bad reasons. The 8 followed the law, the 4 didn’t.

      For all we know some of the 8 were voting for death because she reminded them of their (or their son’s/brother’s/husband’s) ex-wife. Just because a juror wound up at the place you wanted them to be doesn’t mean they got there correctly.

      People are jumping to whole lot of conclusions based upon their own prejudices and what they desired for an outcome.

      1. Lisa K

        Brilliantly said, gatneeland. Thank you so much. The Zervakos Blood Lust is getting out of hand.

  5. Linda Moore

    I think more than just a questionnaire should be required to be on a death penalty jury. I was a rifle specialist (sniper/coverman) for my state DOC and was required to take several tests including the MMPI and I had to be interviewed extensively before I was allowed to go to training. Would these kinds of tests help weed out those who would not be good on a death penalty jury?
    I don’t think this jury foreman could get past JA’s age and looks. He expressed compassion and said that she was normal until she met Travis. That sounded to me like he was putting some of the blame on him, as if he was responsible for turning her into a monster. When asked about the Alexander family’s testimony as during the penalty phase, he said that people forget that there were two families that were hurt by this. That seemed like he was seeing the families as equal in their pain and not considering that JA was the one who did the damage to both. He dismissed the Alexanders’ pain of not having the death penalty and considered the Arias family’s pain if she got it. He also said that he would like to meet her and talk to her. This is creepy.
    I am not a psychologist and I’m really out of my element here so please forgive me if I am not articulate and don’t quite speak the same language on this subject.

    1. Just wondering

      I also perceived that the foreman was holding TA responsible for Jodi’s bad actions, that he brought out the monster in her. He must have been sleeping throughout testimony describing her character before she even met TA. Further, I think he formed certain notions about jodi as a killer the first time he saw her, and those notions stayed with him throughout. This jury was tainted from the start. Don’t get me wrong, i appreciate their service.

    2. Lisa K

      In DP cases, lawyers interview potent jurors. Questionnaires are used to screen potential jurors so that those who would never vote for the DP aren’t even interviewed … the questionnaires are just the first step of the process.

  6. Don Osborne

    I realise that you are arguing the variables of age between an accused and a juror here, Dr K., but I believe there is another important issue here and that issue is concentration span – attention to detail, if you will. A person of the foreman’s age would struggle to give his full and undivided attention to the task required for half a day’s testimony – let alone for months on end. I am in my early 70s and am fully aware that my concentration span is now limited to short periods before tuning out. It is simply too difficult to concentrate on a day’s testimony and give it the attention necessary to sift through the evidence to make the appropriate judgements.
    Also, I believe that because the person of this age is becoming more aware of his own mortality, he is more likely to be sympathetic to one facing theirs.
    This is not to say that his age precluded him from applying the maximum penalty for a crime of this magnitude, which he undertook to do. I firmly believe that four members of this jury were deceptive in declaring they could give the death penalty where warranted.

    1. asterz

      My mother is a physician over 70 with 2 private practices at which she works at least 60 hours a week, including all-nighters at the hospital on weekends. Not all 70 year olds are the same.

  7. Uppity

    Nope, Bill’s age was not the problem. His inability to look at the case using logic at all times was the problem. His visual perception of the murderer clouded his ability to do that. He made decisions with his emotions, and possibly other body parts, instead of his brain. He may or may not be very bright.

    With age often comes a good deal of wisdom. But not always. Some people start out as fools and remain fools all of their lives. However, I do believe that when it comes to a jury, it is best not to have fools on them. I don’t think there’s a test for that.

    To be honest, I do think IQ is an issue with juries. I have no idea how one could deal with that legally and get away with it, but I kind of think it’s not a great idea to have people with low level/below average IQ and reasoning skills on a jury. I know that might sound bad, and given what our jury pools like like sometimes, my idea would stifle the “Jury of peers” idea somewhat, but I’m sorry, there is no way a person who makes important conviction decisions based a killer’s looks, age and sexuality is a good juror, much less a good foreman. Personally, I question how on earth they picked him as the leader. I would have gone for the banker.

  8. Kristi

    I have often read your blog and feel that you are Dead On, however I do believe that age could have played some factor in this jury. There appeared to be only one juror, a mid 20′s young man, who was the only juror relative to the age of Arias. I am not saying that there are not those who are 50-70 who are not hip to today’s technology, lingo and relationships, but you have to admit that life for a 27 year old in 2008 is completely different than the life of a 27 year old in 1970 which is when Zervakos was 27 years old.

    I don’t think that it was Zervakos age that was the issue, I believe it was the jury pool as a whole where the problems started. I liken it to explaining my relationship with my husband to my grandmother, she just would not get it since her point of reference is totally different than a true group of my own peers. I am not saying that my grandmother did not face the same sort of obstacles in her own relationships, but as a whole her point of view is immediately skewed. One prime example – her everyday communications cannot be recalled at a moments noticed thanks to email, text messages, instant messages, etc. over the entire course of a relationship.

    Can those of older generations listen to testimony and form opinions, absolutely. But to me the real question is can a jury that is predominately older be a true jury of your peers. I think no, especially in this case. Is the system flawed, perhaps. My biggest issue with Zervakos is the fact that he felt Travis was verbally abusive. I don’t feel like anything Travis ever did was what a normal person in their late 20′s to mid 30′s would consider “abusive” in this day and age, however, I feel like I am desensitized to a lot of what LaVoliette and Zervakos are considering so-called “verbal abuse”. Again this is where i feel that age plays a huge part in connecting with the state of mind of the accused and victim.

  9. Lisa K

    Wow; the “We hate Bill Zervakos” sentiment by the blog’s commentors is growing exponentially. The quality of intelligent discourse on this blog has decreased significantly since the mistrial was declared.

    Americans have very little understanding of our judicial process. Instead of using this as a learning opportunity, most want to just call Zervakos names, insult his intelligence and accuse him of lying to sabotage the jury and of being too old to be a reasonable and respectable juror. Folks are even accusing the man of thinking with his penis and not him brain.

    How many of you actually show up for jury duty when called? Most Americans do not. Zervakos served for almost 5 months. I respect that.

    I fully expect to have mud flung at me now. I’ll put on my raincoat so that my clothes aren’t ruined.

  10. Dawn

    Dr. Randle, Above you state, “Age means nothing in itself. It is those things that are associated with age that can mean something.” I agree. Although dementia occurs with some, many live on to old-old age with all mental capabilities highly functioning. However, i like to use Erik Erickson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development as a guide. Throughout life, we go through developmental stages, from infancy to late adulthood. Successful completion of one stage leads to a healthy beginning of the next. The last stage of life, age 65+, is “Integrity vs. Despair.” “Integrity” is feeling positive about one’s life. A good life. That one made a positive contribution. Completion. One is ready for death. With “Despair,” many fear death. That life is too short. They feel a failure. Not fulfilled. They now want to find a purpose in their life. They can get dogmatic, only their view is the right one. They have all the answers. Like going back to adolescence. With foreman, William Zervakos, I feel he is mainly experiencing “Despair.” Fears death, life is too short, & hence, save Jodi Arias. His life is unfulfilled, he needs a purpose: Save Arias, visit her to help. HER life is now unfulfilled, LWOP or dp. There are 2 Jodi’s, one before June 4, 2008 & one after. A life not fulfilled, no positive gain. She made a *mistake of…murder. Not really her fault, she was abused. Obviously, he appears dogmatic. His way or no way. Firm in his beliefs: Jodi Arias is too young, too beautiful, not criminal enough (like Manson, Dahmer) to receive the dp. Mr. Zervakos appears to crave the limelight. To not fade away with age. In addition to his needing a purpose in his life, he is shifting, projecting himself onto Jodi Arias. Her stuff is his stuff, & vice-versa. Just some thoughts, in process. Like a puzzle.

  11. Uppity

    I cannot believe the assessment of age 70 on this blog. It’s bordering on hilarious. Won’t be long now before I turn 70 and reach the point of despair and hopelessness, I guess. I hope you all bookmark this blog and it’s here when you turn 70. Then get back to everybody about how senile you all are. Hey, I felt that way when I was 25 too. But then I wasn’t half as smart as I am now. But in a few years when I’m 70, I am sure all my brain cells will obediently die right there on the spot. You people are a riot!

  12. lizzie

    Provocative article. As I said in a response to a previous article, I’m not sure GZ’s age per se was a problem. But I do agree with KR there is something to the notion of an “age cohort.” As other posters have also said, people of different ages will necessarily have different experiences. As a 70 yo, GZ would have been born in the early 1940’s during WWII. Think of life then—-rationing of gasoline/sugar, many people didn’t have home telephones, no TV, movies weren’t “skin flicks” and premarital sex wasn’t front and center every where. “Movie stars” (celebrities of the day) were forced by their studios to hide extra-marital affairs they did have in order to remain marketable. Some were even forced to hide their marriages. The culturally-sanctioned roles of men and women were quite different with women joining the work force in large numbers only when the men were off at war. That is a vastly different world from the one Jodi grew up in. And the notion that cultural and life experiences may matter for a juror’s decision is codified in case law related to the racial, gender, and religious makeup of a jury. Recall the Batson challenge during the Anthony case—the prosecution was not allowed to dismiss a Black potential juror even though she said she was not comfortable “judging people on what other people say.” (And what do jurors hear and do in any trial?)

    It surely seems GZ placed a great deal of emphasis on the language in the selected emails, texts, etc to decide Jodi was abused by Travis. I agree with @Kristi there may be a generational difference in the acceptability of some word choices that appeared in those communications. Do some 70 yo people use that sort of “dirty” language regularly? Sure. Do some 30 yos never talk that way? Sure. But like the iPod experiment, one will probably be right more often than not when determining age by language use.

    GZ also stated in an interview that the abuse didn’t justify the killing but that its existence had to figure into the penalty discussions. He didn’t use the word “mitigator” but the context suggests his finding of abuse was a mitigator for him along with Jodi’s age and appearance. I’m making an assumption here but I think it is a pretty safe assumption that the things GZ chose to discuss when immediately “jumping the media gun” (after the jury agreed not to) were things that were important to his decision. I also am concerned that as foreman, he reported the jury was “dead-locked” after about 1 1/2 hours of deliberation. As other posters have also noted, a foreperson can exercise a great deal of power during deliberations. Since GZ wanted Life did he conduct a fair deliberative process? @NancyB’s description of Jeff Gold’s take suggests maybe not.

  13. Chris Larson

    Age had nothing to do with it. I believe it was his life experience and perceptions that gave him empathy for Jodi. We don’t know what all his mitigating factors were. I believe he gave great weight to her age. I’m not sure he really followed the law as far as the instructions go. He had also made a comment about how the instuctions were confusing. Yikes. Ask the judge for Pete’s sake. I would bet if the defendant was male, he premeditated a murder, butchered a woman with 29 stab wounds, slit her throat and shot her,That male defendant would be on death row at the hands of this jury.

    1. Lisa K

      They did ask the Judge questions. However, not all questions could be answered; the State and Defense could object to questions and give input on how questions should be answered. I don’t know how many questions were asked or how they were answered.

  14. justsuse

    I’m starting to think this jury didn’t really diliberate. An alternate juror on JVM today said that is was older jurors who voted for life. Did these jurors each explain their decision to each other for their point of view? Did they really talk about any mitigators they felt warranted weight or did they just vote? Did the other jurors feel they could not challenge older jurors includin the foreman? We know the foreman was sympathetic to Jodi’s age and he thinks she does not look like a murderer. Using sympathy is in direct contradiction to the jury instructions. The difficulty of being a juror on a death penalty case is taking the evidence, discarding what you must and holding it against the law and your juror instructions. The benefit of that is that this procedure allows you and requires you to separate your emotional self from your reasoning self. If that is impossible then why does it happen in other cases? I’m not so sure all the jurors followed their instructions which absolve them of guilt if they can substantiate their vote. Perhaps if the 4 jurors voting life could anonymously give us their reasons why, the mitigators which overcame the 3 attempts of murder of Travis.

  15. Cheryl

    As one who actually served on a death penalty case in the capital of death penalty states Texas. I actually know what it’s like to sit day by day, look at incredibly horrific pictures and hear gruesome testimony.

    I hate jury duty, but I always show up and have been selected 3 times, 2 criminal and 1 civil. It’s time consuming and disruptive to one’s life. It’s also necessary. When I get the notice I complain and contemplate how I can get out of it, then I suck it up because it’s the right thing to do.

    The trial I was on was a retrial, having recently moved to Texas I hadn’t known about the case so that put me in the lead pack of potential jurors. The questionnaire was well over 20 maybe over 30 pages with numerous variation of whether you believe in the death penalty and could you impose the death penalty.

    I answered honestly, I think the death penalty should be a case by case situation. There are a lot of things I’m absolutely rigid about but the death penalty isn’t one of them.

    During voir dire when asked by the defense whether I would be more inclined to believe the testimony of a police officer I answered no, while the profession is truly honorable and do believe that those who consider and join the police are admirable and the job is fraught with danger and stress, it is still manned or wo-manned by humans with all the accompanied flaws.

    Considering my answers on the questionnaire and during voir dire I never expected to be selected yet I was. I took my duties seriously and yes the temptation was rampart to look up the previous trial on the internet and discuss it with family friends and coworker, I didn’t and I’m a internet junkie. I avoided the newspapers and the news. I refused to talk about it to anyone. Was it easy? NO, NO and can I say NO, but I did because a man was on trial for his life.

    I listened to the testimony and looked at the pictures 3 people were murdered, 1 a child less than 18 months old. My primitive reaction was this man needs to die he murdered a family, wiped them out, but my rational side took over and made me listen to the evidence in total. I needed for the prosecution to prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt the he had committed the crime. I didn’t want nor would I accept he did it because the police said he did it, I needed facts and evidence. We were given that in abundance which made the initial decision of guilt easier.

    However the punishment phase of the trial was anything but easy. Additional evidence was allowed which showed a side of the defendant that did things just because he could, robbery, burglary and murder no remorse or regret until he was caught. He actually had valid and horrendous mitigating circumstance and we the jury had to really discussed in detail over a period of time how much if any they should have on our decision of life or death.

    The initial vote was for death 7 to 5 and everyone spoke about why they voted the way they did. There was pressure of course but not overwhelming from the death side mainly because the 5 including me weren’t opposed to the death sentence we just had to be absolutely sure this was the right thing to do. The discussion and debate was truly the most important part of the deliberations because you heard reasons why someone felt the way they did. Those who were always death penalty now and forever in their views actually listened to people who didn’t think death should be the automatic verdict and those of us like me who felt it should always be a case by case situation listened also. Was everyone’s mind changed? No of course not, however we all learned something during those deliberations. Sometime things are black and white sometime things are shades of gray.

    Long story short jury returned a verdict for death. I truly hope that if called again for jury duty it won’t be a capital case because I would have the difficult problem of balancing my belief in serving against my desire to never, ever and I mean never to have to experience that again.

    1. Lisa K

      Cheryl,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences as a juror and explaining what the process was like during deliberations on the DP case you served on. That is very useful info. I think that once someone serves on a DP jury, they should be excused from future jury duty for life.

      And thank you for doing your civic duty. Most Americans don’t. One day last year in my city, so few potential jurors appeared as ordered that the Judge had the police track everyone down and found the no-shows in contempt of court. Not enough potential jurors appeared for trials to occur. I was shocked by that. I don’t live in a small town!

      So thank you, Cheryl!

  16. lizzie

    @Lisa–Do you know or does anyone else know when the questions the jury did ask the judge will be unsealed? I would assume it won’t be until after the penalty is decided but I don’t know that for sure. Based on TV coverage, I think the first question in the penalty phase was asked after about 1-2 hrs of deliberation and it concerned being deadlocked/unable to agree. Then there was that flurry about what a “Life” sentence meant in the instructions. It was stated it has been left out in the instructions whether Life meant natural life or life with the possibility of parole and the judge wanted to clarify to the jury she would decide which of those to award if the jury decided on Life. I’m not sure what brought that omission to light but it’s possible a juror question did. Anyway, at that point the Judge allowed JW and JM to argue to the jury that a Life sentence would or would not include the possibility of parole. And then there was a question shortly before the jury returned its non-verdict that the judge said would be labeled as “Question #3″ and a written response was given to the jury. So we don’t really know if there were questions about the instructions the jury had that were not posed, questions that were posed but not answered, or questions that were posed and answered but the jury was still confused. My bet is that confusion still reigned over the LWOP and Life 25 issue. And if I were a juror on the DP side because I thought JA was likely to kill again, I’d not be likely to compromise and say Life if I had a question about what that sentence would actually mean.

    1. Lisa K

      Lots of info was sealed during this trial. Testimony and discussions that occurred in the Judge’s chambers are supposed to be unsealed after all stages of the trial are complete. The sidebar discussions will also be unsealed. There may be bits of info that isn’t unsealed for legitimate reasons, but there will be a lot of info that is unsealed after JA is officially sentenced by Jury or Judge.

      I’m not positive the the juror questions from the penalty phase will be unsealed. They might be. But if they are, it won’t be until sentencing is complete. I don’t think there will be much delay between sentencing and the release of sealed info.

  17. Don Osborne

    Lisa K – How is being critical of a jury foreman going public and propounding obviously inaccurate analysis of the evidence given in a trial suddenly ‘a blood lust?’

    1. gatneeland

      how is the foreman obviously inaccurate analysis? That he found abuse? I don’t find the obviously inaccurate. I didn’t find it but then I had a whole lot more information than he did. I had a whole lot more than either was admitted or didn’t rise to the level of evidence (i.e., the handstand).

      I like how we all sit outside this jury, outside the courtroom and gather lots of data and lots of information and then declare ourselves the arbiter of what the jury should have done with a lot more limited data.

      Here’s what the prosecution didn’t do:
      1) they didn’t present evidence of her stalking,
      2) they didn’t present evidence of her “using” her old boyfriends,
      3) they didn’t present evidence of her theft from TA,
      4) they didn’t present evidence (coherently in my mind) which rebutted her contention they had a relationship, 5) they didn’t present evidence of her breaking in, and
      6) they didn’t put the texts into an adequate context.

      While everyone goes on and on about how great Juan was; he had a brilliant case developed by the police and in my mind he did an OK job. He got played by the DT and specifically by JA. He wasted a lot of time on BS and fighting with witnesses and missed a lot of points. He helped keep JA, Samuels and ALV on the stand for how long they did. Far from surgical strikes he meandered and got caught up in their games.

      He took a slam dunk case and allowed the DT to define the relationship between TA & JA — which allowed these jurors to find the mitigation.

      Where were the visuals which showed these the abusive texts were 20 odd texts out of thousands?
      Where were the visuals which would have demonstrated the actual infrequency of their relationship?

      He allowed too much of his case to be reactive, because he had a slam dunk case. And he did — EXCEPT for the death penalty, which he blew.

      And how do we know he blew it? Because some jurors were able to find mitigation. It was his job to make sure they didn’t. But he didn’t put anyone on to prove the paucity of JA & TA’s relationship, hich allowed some jurors to buy PART of her story which backed up by some pretty ugly texts.

      Martinez never managed to put them into a decent context. He blew it — not the jurors.

      Texts I found offensive. Did I think they rose to abuse, do I think they defined the tone of relationship. Nope, but then I had a whole lot more information than the jury.

      1. Chris Larson

        Gatneeland- The stalking evidence could not be brought in because it was considered hearsay.
        Travis told many friends and family,but no verified evidence of the journals, 3 different tire slashing episodes. sneaking into his house and snooping etc. Also not admitted were “electronic” forged letters that Jodi trie to have entered “proving” physical abuse. They were evaluated by an expert and deemed not to be valid. Bottom line is the jury did the best they could do. People are pissed and sad because they wanted resolution. People also want death for Jodi because she planned Travis’ murder,and then went to extremes to cover it up. Sending the Grandmother flowers really? Leaving the person you slaughtered a voice-mail, calling the detective on the case fishing for information, attending the memorial, lie for 2 years. go on a national media blitz professing your innocence, then you decide to turn the victim into a pedophile and an abuser. She continued to lie when the jig was up. That is why she deserved death.

      2. Lisa K

        Gatneeland,
        I very much appreciate how you’ve defended the jurors. You and I are absolutely on the same page about that.

        A few points regarding your comment.

        *Not all of the emails were allowed to be presented to the jury. I don’t know why so many of JA’s emails weren’t presented, but I am fairly confident that the DT was able to keep them from being introduced to the jury. But that wasn’t JM’s choice; he presented all he was legally allowed to present.

        *The info regarding stalking, break-ins and theft didn’t meet the legal standard of evidence. While JM was able to get the info before the jury, without police phone calls, police reports, journal entries by TA, etc, all of that info was based on what Travis told others … basically hearsay. Some friends did share that they thought it was JA that slashed tires, rang doorbells and took stuff, no one saw her do these things. People did see JA in places where she shouldn’t have been (TA’s house, parties, etc), but most (or all) of the break-in incidents were based on what TA told friends and family. Do I doubt that any of this happened? Absolutely not. But the jury is required to go by legal evidence. That info didn’t meet the legal requirements for solid evidence.

        At the very end of the guilt phase, a police report about tire slashing did surface but it wasn’t helpful because no report was filed (perhaps proof that JA slashed the tires could have been found had a report been filed and an investigation occurred. I believe that it was JA that slashed those tires and Lisa’s tires.

        *If you look at the amount of time defense witnesses were on the stand, it was the defense that kept their witnesses on the stand f.o.r.e.v.e.r. The defense took up 4/5th of the trial time; JA blathered on for 3 weeks before JM got a chance to cross-examine her. ALV was on the stand for almost 2.5 weeks before cross-exam. In addition, only 3 states allow juror questions; follow-up by both sides then occurs and the cycle repeats until there are no more juror questions. This lengthened the trial by at least 5 days. If this case were tried elsewhere, it wouldn’t have taken quite as long.

        *Had JM not ripped apart Samuels, ALV and Geffner, the outcome of this case may have been different. The jurors knew that Doc Fog, ALV and Geffner were FOS, but only after JM ripped apart their testimony and professional histories. We all know that JA never had PTSD and wasn’t a battered woman. But JM had to work hard to show the jury that the “diagnoses” by Doc Fog, ALV and Geffner were crap. People tend to defer to the testimony of “experts”; having letters behind one’s name can mislead others into believing that the “expert” knows what they should know. JM helped the jury see that Doc Fog, ALV and Geffner were hired guns and nothing more.

        Was JM perfect? No. But he is one of the best Prosecutors in the country. Much of what people are frustrated with are limitations that were placed on JM; there was a limit to what he could present and limits on how he could present what he did present.

        At least he was able to prove that JA committed premeditated first degree murder with aggravating factors. We don’t know what the 4 jurors considered to be mitigating factors; if age or lack of criminal history were considered mitigating for any juror, then there is nothing JM could do about those things.

        All of the AZ lawyers that I spoke with or watched in interviews initially said that JA would get M2 or possibly even manslaughter. But that change began when JM shredded Doc Fog and ALV. There wasn’t a single lawyer that believed JA was going to get a M1 w/premed conviction at the beginning of trial. JM turned that around. There truly was a chance that manslaughter could have been the first verdict had it not been for JM’s masterful abilities.

        Finally, there is one more factor that most forget. We don’t know how discussions progressed in the jury room during deliberations. Perhaps only 2 jurors initially believed there were mitigating factors but then while deliberating, 2 more found the arguments of fellow jurors compelling. Perhaps 10 of the jurors thought there was a mitigating factor but then through deliberations, 6 changed their minds. We don’t know. We do know that every juror who has been interviewed has said that no one pressured anyone to “go along” with the majority. And that is a good thing.

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