Transcript reflects jury tension in murder trial
After days of deadlocked deliberations, a frustrated juror in the Mattapan murders trial took the unusual step of writing a note to the judge. She confided that another woman on the jury had from the start opposed convicting the alleged gunman and had vowed to be “the holdup in the case.”
Such an attitude, the frustrated juror complained to the judge, was not fair to the families of those who had died, according to a transcript of the trial’s dramatic final day in March that includes previously unreleased sidebar conversations with the judge. “So I feel that is why from the beginning we were doomed,” the juror wrote to Judge Christine McEvoy.
A short time later, the woman’s fears were realized, as the jury failed to reach a verdict on murder charges against Dwayne Moore, the alleged triggerman in one of the city’s most horrific slayings. The failure to convict Moore, accused of killing four people, including a mother and her 2-year-old son, sparked deep community anger and cynicism toward the jury system.
The 77-page transcript, provided by the courts at the Globe’s request, offers a riveting account of the juror’s desperate, last-minute appeal to the judge, and the holdout juror’s later defense: She denied having a preconceived notion, insisting she had weighed the evidence and decided the case fairly. It yields fresh insight into tense deliberations that ended in mistrial, and confirms earlier reports of the panel’s abiding frustration with the lone holdout.
The note from the frustrated juror was sent to McEvoy late in the process, with deliberations at a standstill.
“This has never been communicated to me prior to this time, and I have no idea why it’s being communicated to me at this very late time,” McEvoy said in sidebar.
The judge said she wished to speak with the juror, but John Cunha, whose client Edward Washington was acquitted in the trial, objected. He said the juror had recently voted to continue deliberations, suggesting a thorough weighing of the evidence and noting a previous message that quoted the same juror as saying, “I felt from the beginning that it would be me against everybody else.”
The defense attorney expressed concern that the letter from the frustrated juror represented a “last-ditch attempt” to eliminate a juror with a different viewpoint.
John Amabile, Moore’s lawyer, noted that the juror who sent the message is African-American, and said, “What is very apparent here is that she’s gone completely into the sympathy mode,” and had become “unwilling to go back to her home in Roxbury without having made a last-stand, last-ditch effort to try to appease the outrage in the community over the crimes.”
McEvoy called Amabile’s comments “purely speculative,” and called in the juror who wrote the letter. The judge urged that juror not to say anything about deliberations, then asked when the fellow juror had made the comment.
“Before the evidence started,” the juror replied. She said the holdout pledged that “I’m going to be the holdup” and that “it had happened before” on another case. The comment was made in the jury room as they were being empaneled at the start of the trial.
The concerned juror said she did not know what the comment meant, but eventually decided to alert the judge “after seeing what happened.”
“Then I said maybe I should say something because I don’t think this is fair,” she told the judge.
The letter-writing juror told the judge she had not told anyone else about the conversation and had not alerted the judge earlier because she did not think it was her place.
After the conversation, McEvoy said that without the context of the remark, it was difficult to interpret. “I don’t know enough,” she said.
Amabile, the defense attorney, said then, “It’s time to get on with this case and get the verdicts,” while prosecutor Edmond Zabin expressed concern.
Zabin said the juror’s potential bias raised questions about whether the holdout had failed to follow “the court’s instruction to decide the case based on the evidence and only the evidence.”
The judge then called in the juror in question, over Amabile’s vehement objection.
“This is now a fishing expedition to try to salvage a verdict in a case where there is a hung jury,” Amabile said.
McEvoy asked the juror whether she had said something about being a holdout in the case, and the juror denied making the remark.
“I don’t know how to explain,” she said. “Obviously, she’s taking out of context what was said.”
McEvoy asked if the juror said anything at the start of the case about her mindset. No, the juror replied.
“You took an oath in this case to be fair and impartial and to judge the case based solely on the evidence presented and on the law as I explain it to you,” the judge said. “Were you able to follow that oath?”
“To the best of my knowledge, yes,” she said. She later said she had been able to keep that oath.
Asked about the holdout comment, the juror said she had “never said anything to that effect.”
In an interview Tuesday, Amabile said there was “no evidence to suggest” that the juror acted improperly.
“She bravely held to her position and prevented an improper verdict,” he said.
A spokesman for the prosecutors office said Tuesday the office is “looking forward, not backward” in anticipation of a scheduled fall retrial of Moore.