Regret haunts juror who thinks he convicted an innocent man

If you’re the type that wants everyone else to like you, maybe you shouldn’t serve on a jury.

The Boston Globe reports today on the second thoughts a juror is having, after he caved quickly to other jurors, even though he was pretty sure the accused was not guilty.

“I feel so bad about this decision,’’ juror Rob Moir tells columnist Thomas Farragher. “This process just went haywire.’’

There are social dynamics involved when a jury has to return a unanimous verdict, which Moir’s jury had to do in the case of a man charged with assault and battery on his wife.

For Moir, the testimony didn’t add up.

When the jury foreman called for a vote, everybody raised their hand except for Moir.

He recalled this jury room exchange: “They say, ‘Rob! He’s guilty!’ And I said, ‘No, he’s innocent until proven guilty. It hasn’t been proven that he did this.’’

What followed was an examination of the victim’s bruises and how they might have been inflicted. “I’m saying, ‘He just pushed her off and that’s not assault and battery. She came at him. That’s justified.’ And this really chummy guy goes at me, saying, ‘Rob, he pushed her as hard as he could. That makes it assault and battery.’ And they’re all nodding, saying, ‘Yeah.’ ’’

And then Moir, to his astonishment, suddenly was with them.

“We all raised our hands and went, ‘Yaay!’ And it’s like: Oh my god, I just (convicted) this guy and I’m thinking, well, the judge will work it out. That’s his problem.’’

“There is a certain cascade effect in the jury room,’’ said Edward Schwartz, a jury consultant.

“You want to be part of the winning team,’’ he said. “The ugly underbelly of that is that when people disagree with the majority sentiment, sometimes that opinion is met with derision, contempt, hostility. If you think you’re a minority of one, it’s a pretty daunting prospect to go out on a limb if you’re the only one who feels that way.’’

Moir sent a letter to the judge.

“I am ashamed that my desire to be part of a group impaired my judgment,’’ he wrote. “I greatly regret my irresponsible actions that resulted in an innocent man being found guilty of something he did not do.’’

“Part of the story is how a well-meaning juror can get distracted by social pressure and not do the right thing,’’ he tells the Globe.

The person convicted will be sentenced on Friday.

  • crystals

    This is a nightmare on so many levels. For the juror, of course, but also for the legal system. Can a statement like this be used in an appeal?

    I’ve always wanted to be on a jury (so of course have never been called), but stories like this always help me remember the weight of responsibility is so real.

    • According to the Globe, juror regret isn’t a reason to reopen.

      • crystals

        Thank you! I’ve already exceeded my free Globe stories for the week/month/forever so couldn’t read the original piece.

        • they’ve got sneaky over there. I don’t even think the icognito trick in Chrome works for them anymore.

          • Carol S.

            There are more and more places where that trick doesn’t work. WSJ is another one…

      • That right. It’s is common for a juror to be overwhelmed by the majority. In this case I watched the judge for his expression rather than the victum. There were two charges, we ruled not guilty to strangulation and guilty to assault and battery. I think the lawyer would have appealed the verdict if I had not written the judge because the not guilty of strangulation verdict meant we knew the woman was lying and we did not fullly comprehend the gravity of assault and battery being more than pushing a woman as hard as I could.

    • RBHolb

      Juror affidavits are rarely allowed to attack a verdict.

    • joetron2030

      Same here. I’ve lived in Hennepin County my entire adult life (after college which makes it 25 years now) and I’ve never been called to jury duty.

  • BJ

    I was on a kidnapping case many years ago and was the jury foreman. I think the bottom line is the foreperson needs to do a good job. The first vote needs to be a secret vote. Once you see it isn’t unanimous immediately set up a process for everyone to review facts and judges instructions. The next few minutes after that first ‘vote’ are very important to set the tone of thoughtfulness.

    Honestly we received almost no instructions (none beside it had to be unanimous) on how to go about voting and what kind of process we should follow. So I worked very hard to set up a process.

    • It sounds like you were an excellent foreman.

      • BJ

        I was 26 and scared out of my mind. Creating a process to conduct ourselves was the best thing I could think of. Decided to get into politics big time after that experience.

    • Mike Worcester

      //Honestly we received almost no instructions

      Which highlights another concern in our criminal justice system — wildly inconsistent procedures. In the Philando Castille case that jury received instructions which were nine pages in length. Granted different case types but still…

    • Yes, I’m n our case I said let’s not take a vote. Let’s not make up our mind until considering the facts. I then asked the foreman to repeat the facts. He said only spoke about what happened at the couples apartment and not how the guy had won the lottery to get an apartment under section 8. He had won the lottery with an apartment for only $187 a month. Then the big white guy met a younger black woman whose only job was unloading trucks sometimes.

  • Randall Thompson

    OK- I was on a murder trial and the exact OPPOSITE thing happened. It was obvious based on the evidence that the accused was guilty. Yet there was one person on the jury who did not agree (her evidence: “just look at him, he seems like such a nice young man”). Two days later, after I was physically ill, and the rest sick and tired, she finally agreed. Jury duty is NOT easy.

  • jon

    I was on a jury last month. Domestic assault case, just like mentioned above.

    I’m still not comfortable with our verdict.

    I think it was the correct call. It was the best, with the information we had, verdict we could have reached…
    It’s not a matter of validity though, it’s a matter of finding some one guilty…

    I’m on my phone so I won’t type a book, but domestic assault is hard to hear about and hard to judge.

    • jon

      Ok, I’m at a computer now, so I can type a bit more…

      The victim didn’t want a guilty verdict, she was reluctant to take the stand (taking several minutes to get her into the courtroom), and her testimony on the stand was that no blows were exchanged, and her facial expression when she looked at the defendant was one of “I’m sorry”. Battered woman syndrome perhaps.

      In order for it to be domestic assault there had to be a family connection between the two, as they were not cohabiting at the time, so we got to hear about their kids… whom, I gathered both of them loved dearly (and was one of the points of contention that lead to the incident which was being tried).

      There was one statement not in either the witnesses testimony or the victims, but read from the police report that suggested a pattern of abuse… and I had a dark wish that it was true, that there was a pattern of abuse, that this was just the one time he got caught, so that I would be breaking a cycle with a guilty verdict… but it seems particularly disturbed for me to hope that this poor woman was beaten multiple times just so my conscious could rest easier… The law doesn’t require a pattern of abuse, just one instance…

      I had convinced myself, that I could go with a not guilty verdict… I was still on the fence, but I thought I had reasonable doubts… then with one statement from another juror my doubts were gone. One person pointing out the similarities in the stories were greater than the differences I had fixated on…

      By our first vote it was an even split… and I feel like those on the not guilty side spent the hours we were deliberated not trying to find a reasonable doubt, but trying to justify a guilty verdict to themselves, to their own conscious, because guilty verdicts are hard.

      Even now I hope that the sentence isn’t one of prison time, but one of therapy and counseling for that family… because I don’t have a desire to see that family more damaged than it is…. it should be fixed, not ripped apart… but neither verdict would have made that a given, that was beyond my authority as a juror.