The prosecutor goes first followed by the defense attorney.
And just to shake things up a bit, the prosecutor gets to add another two cents after the defense attorney.
I really didn’t listen. So sue, me but I had trouble focusing on the closing statements. They were in essence, just a rehash of the opening statements sprinkled in with the evidence we’d all seen.
To make matters worse, the defense attorney repeated each and every single one of his points no less than four times, (according to a fellow juror of mine,) to the point where the juror was considering changing his decision in favor of the prosecution.
The jury was dismissed to the infamous jury room, while the judge and lawyers discussed the charges and the rules for the jury.
After a long day, we the jury sat ourselves in the comfortable chairs surrounding the table. We had been instructed not to discuss the trial (yet) and I reminded juror three of this fact, when he began to lament how little relevant information was presented.
With little else to do, we discussed the local real estate market (prompted by the view of three skyscrapers under construction, within our view to the south.) That naturally segued into a discussion of employment.
Juror One, was a Dean at one of the local high schools, and expressed considerable enthusiasm for his work.
I don’t recall Juror Two’s vocation, she didn’t bring one up that I recall.
Juror Three turned out to be a computer programmer and he and I were able to discuss the various changes in software development over the years.
Juror Four, (Like Juror Two) remained quite throughout the conversation, and though I recall him reporting his vocation, I don’t recall what it was.
Juror Five informed us that he was a real estate attorney, and though he didn’t deal with criminal law, he was professionally curious with the proceedings of a Jury (along with the other attorney’s I’d talked to during the day.) He expressly stated that he did not want to lead the jury and was more interested in watching what and how we discussed our verdict.
And then there was me, a category mapper for e-commerce commodities.
At this point we were led back to the court room to receive our final instructions.
First, we needed to elect a Jury Foreman and then we were to deliver a verdict of one of four choices,1
1) Guilty of Assault with a Firearm
2) Guilty of Assault
3) Guilty of Brandishing a Weapon in a Threatening manner
4) Not Guilty
From my perspective, we really only had two choices, A or D. Further, if we were to further decide that Gabriel Jackson was indeed guilty of option One, we needed to consider another count which read to the effect, “Was a firearm used in this incident?”
It sounds kind of silly, but in the State of Florida, there are additional stiff punitive measures for committing a crime with a Firearm. This is also known as the 10-20-Life law (though it wasn’t discussed in the court, I am familiar with it.) Specifically, if you pull a gun during a crime, you receive an additional 10 years in prison. If you fire a gun you serve an additional 20 years in prison. If you hit someone with a bullet, you’ll never be a free man again.
Back in the Jury Room, we commenced with the task at hand.
As to the election of a Foreman, one of the jurors posited the question, “Does anyone want to be foreman?”
I did. I didn’t want to be eager about it and really didn’t think I would be selected, but after a pause where no one else expressed a desire for the position, I expressed mine.
Everyone else was relieved by my admission, and I was suddenly the focus of attention.
I panicked for a moment as the jury verdict forms, instructions, and evidence was slid my way.
I began to babble something about the Jury instructions, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do so I stopped. I asked everyone if there were any questions or lack of understanding regarding the instructions and everyone indicated there were none.
“I’d like to borrow from Twelve Angry Men,” I started anew, “And go around the table and informally and verbally see where everyone stands.”
I asked if there were objections and there were none.
I formally asked each juror in turn, “How do you find?”
Juror one was quick to answer, “Not Guilty.”
Juror two, when asked, expressed that she felt that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence for her to overcome reasonable doubt and eventually she concluded by reporting a “Not Guilty” verdict as well.
Juror three paused blanched. “I have sooo many questions that I’d like to ask. There’s just so much more I’d like to know!”
I noticed the other jurors nodding and smiling in empathy. I recalled in my note taking, drafting one unanswered question for every three questions answered during the trial. My notebook was brimming with unanswered questions.
“I just don’t know . . .” Juror three trailed off.
“Could I consider you submitting a ‘possibly guilty of something?’”
Juror three shook his head, “I certainly don’t have enough evidence to overcome my doubt . . .”
“I understand, but if we can consider you as a ‘possibly guilty of something’, that gives us a dissenting vote so we can discuss this.”
Juror three nodded in understanding and agreed on those grounds.
Juror four, an elderly man with glasses carefully and slowly enunciated his reply, “It is my opinion that this trial was a waste of both our time and taxpayer money.”
“Not Guilty?” I clarified.
Juror five, with a twinkle in his eye at Juror Four’s response also expressed a “Not Guilty” finding.
With the focus returned to me I stated, “I also find the defendant ‘Not Guilty.’”
I thought to myself that this could turn out to be a really quick verdict with five decisive votes for “Not Guilty” and one, “Y’know, I just don’t know!”
I turned to juror three and asked, “What questions do you have?”
He reported that he had copious questions to ask each of the witnesses. Juror Five explained that the witnesses had all been dismissed for the day, and additionally, the Judge had informed us that no further evidence would be admitted to us for this trial. He then shared with us that during another trial he had sat upon, that the jurors had actually asked questions during the trial, and that the Judge had permitted it there.
But what were the things we were questioning?
Juror two pointed out that one of the defining factors was the fact that Theresa Derringer had stated that her mother was a witness, whereas her mother vehemently denied Theresa’s assertions. Further, the other potential witness and collaborator of Theresa’s version of events, her Father-In-Law, also was not presented as a witness.
I did not bring this matter to the attention of the jury, but additionally, Theresa reported that her cell phone had been slapped into the street. Where was the cell phone with the signs of abrasion? Where were the cell phone log records indicating whether or not a call had been made? Both were also noticeably absent.
We discussed the jacket next. What kind of jacket was worn by Gabriel Jackson? The prosecutor never addressed this, and in the manner that Theresa testified, we all had the impression that the pistol was pulled from a jacket pocket, (as opposed to a shoulder holster).
I asked if this type of pistol could be held in a “jacket pocket.”
Juror Four vehemently shook his head no, Juror One retorted, “That’s a Colt .45!”
I hadn’t taken the time to identify the weapon, but at the mental cue, I took a closer look and agreed. “That’s a very heavy weapon for a jacket pocket!” we concluded.
Shortly, Juror three turned to me and asked, “Why do you believe Not Guilty?”
I mentally rolled up my sleeves and began.
“The first thing that leads me to doubt Theresa Derringer’s assertions is that, during her testimony she expressed that Gabriel reached into his left coat pocket with his left hand to retrieve the pistol and then used her right hand to aim the weapon.
Other jurors chimed in to agree. Theresa had actually switched between firing hands multiple times during her testimony.
“That’s a minor point, but more importantly, she testified that Gabriel’s other hand was held behind the gun.” I held out my hands to mimic the gesture.
“Now take a look at this pistol,” I held up States Evidence One, the vanity picture of Gabriel Jackson holding aloft his weapon next to his chest.
“Do you see the top of this pistol?”
Juror Four interjected a quick aside to Juror Three, “Listen up, this’ll be good!”
“This upper portion is called the ‘slide.’ When fired this slide is thrown back one and a half to two inched backwards.”
“IF,” I continued, “Gabriel Jackson had been holding his hand there and pulled the trigger, he would have instantly dislocated his wrist and shattered this bone in his forearm.” I pointed to the side of the arm adjacent to the thumb.
“Additionally,” I returned my hands to the testified position, “If you hold your hand right here, in front of the slide, you are actually blocking the aiming points.” Everyone nodded. It was brutally clear that it would be very difficult to see a target with the hand in the way, as presented. “Mind you we’re looking at a point blank shot, so this may not actually affect weather or not Gabriel could shoot Theresa, but it would certainly be much more difficult.”
“Next,” I continued, “Note (in States Evidence One) that Gabriel Jackson has his trigger finger aligned on the trigger guard and NOT wrapped around the trigger. This indicates a rather unprecedented level of firearm safety and discipline.”
“Further let’s examine Defense Evidence Two, the conceal and carry permit.”
“In order to receive a conceal and carry permit, one is required to undertake some firearm safety course. I don’t know Gabriel’s shooting habits, but based on the evidence presented here, he doesn’t strike me as a reckless shooter.”
“In conclusion, the only way that I can see Gabriel Jackson wielding this weapon in the manner testified, is if he were ‘possessed by demons,’ totally wasted on drugs, or drunk beyond comprehension.”
Everyone was nodding in either agreement or comprehension.
“Are there any other questions?”
There were none.
I formally asked each and every juror their decision one last time and we were unanimous.
I filled in the verdict papers and as foreman, signed them.
Fifteen minutes after we’d entered the room, I knocked on the Jury Room door and informed the Bailiff, “We have a verdict.”
He barely suppressed his shocked reaction.
The rest of the trial was a formality. The verdict was read by the Clerk of the Court, and the Judge asked each Juror, by their Jury number, if they concurred.