Deliberations started again at 9am Saturday morning. The focus of the eleven was to convince the one last juror that the defendant was a cruel manipulating liar who murdered his one child and permanently disabled the other in cold blood and knew exactly what he was doing. We sat around a large oval-shaped table with the foreman on one side and “Mr. Holdout” on the other. The foreman said her piece then we all took it in turns to try to convince him of the defendant’s guilt. Mr. Holdout then had his chance to tell us what was on his mind. His issue was that he did not think anyone of sound mind could do such a heinous thing to his own children.
It was decided that we needed to go over in greater detail the psychiatrist’s for both the defense (2 witnesses) and the prosecution (2 witnesses) testimonies. This constituted one and a half weeks of complicated testimony and would take about 2 days. At this point the East Indian lady had withdrawn from the proceedings and was sitting in the corner in her chair rocking back and forth whimpering.
We had finished painstakingly going over the expert witnesses testimony by around noon on the Monday Mr. Holdout was being fairly quiet so we broke for lunch and decided to do another vote after lunch. This was seven days after the judge had handed us the trial. After lunch we voted and Mr. Holdout still would not cooperate. The jury foreman then sent a third note to the judge saying that we were at an impasse with one holdout and could not convince him. The judge sent back two words in capital letters “KEEP TRYING”. By this time 4 people had completely withdrawn from the proceedings, the two homemakers, the unemployed man and the firefighter (good job he wasn’t foreman) were playing crib. Myself and the foreman sat in one of the corners with Mr. Holdout talking quietly and trying to get through to him. We were getting nowhere and at this point had completely withdrawn, not answering or engaging. I then stood up and said we should finish early get a good nights sleep and vote again in the morning. If it was no dice then we would inform the judge that we were hung.
At 9am on the Tuesday we voted again. Mr. Holdout was stone faced. He then announced quite matter of factly that he would accept a second degree murder verdict. Everyone was gobsmacked the foreman said she would take this suggestion to the judge to see if this verdict was a possibility. I then said something like the following to the jury and foreman:
“I will never agree to a verdict of second degree murder in this case. I would prefer a hung jury. The evidence is quite clear that this defendant murdered his two defenseless children in a cold blooded premeditated manner. One person in this room does not have the guts or intestinal fortitude to come to the same conclusion as everyone else. We have indulged Mr. Holdout for four days now I will not indulge him any longer, now is the time to make the right decision”.
Mr. Holdout then had a melt down bleating “I can’t send a man to prison for the rest of his life”
I then threw a full plastic bottle of Dasane water at him, narrowly missing his head and crashing into the door. I yelled “Make the right decision you f—–g gutless piece of shit.” One of the court officials banged on the door and asked if everything was OK. The foreman/woman answered in the affirmative. I thought about this exchange a few times over the years. Had I actually intended to hit Mr. Holdout with the water bottle? It was an easy shot, around eight feet. In fact I just wrote that I had intended to hit him but missed. If I am honest this was merely a ploy to get Mr. Holdout’s attention.
Mr. Holdout sat alone with his head on the table sobbing for ten minutes or so. A couple of people went to engage him but I motioned for them to leave him be. He pulled himself together then announced he would agree to the first degree murder conviction.
I got a great deal of satisfaction as I purposely caught the defendants eye while the foreman gave the verdict of guilty on both counts. Murder in the first degree and aggravated assault. I have no doubt that if I were not on that jury this murderer would probably have ended up being convicted of second degree murder and would be walking free today. This jury including the foreman was done and would have taken the second degree murder option as a compromise to escape the jury room.
After the verdict was received by the court, we were discharged by the judge. Myself, the foreman/woman, the retired teacher, the bank clerk, the retired accountant and the shop assistant, did not immediately contact our loved ones and went to a local pub and got quite drunk. We all pledged life long friendships with promises of reunions and socializing. The reality in the end was that none of this ever happened. Through various twists of fate twelve people that would never normally interact with each other were thrust together in close proximity in a very personal common cause for an extended period of time. As with myself the other members of the jury just wanted to forget about it all after they got home.
Some advice for you if you ever end up on a jury. Pick a foreman with a strong personality, not a quiet consensus builder with organizational skills. It takes a lot to get twelve people to agree on something as important as the fate of another human being.
One last thing. I saw Mr. Holdout doing a street interview on CTV News a couple of years later. He was an advocate for the homeless.