Victoria notes: “Joe the Juror” has been sitting in this trial for weeks. He’s been so affected by this case that when he told me it was finally over I asked him to blog about it. Here’s his post.
Is our justice system broken? Are we giving it our best shot and coming to the best verdict in our courtrooms given the rules of evidence? Or is the justice system failing due to simple human error?
I believe there is room for all these lines of thought.
For the past few weeks, I have been a member of a jury deciding the fate of murder suspect Shawntell Lamarr Moses in a Multnomah County courtroom.
On December 8, 1995 , Kala Kim Peterson was brutally and horrifically murdered near Woodlawn Park , after being picked up as a prostitute.
Her boyfriend testified that she had turned to prostitution to feed her crack cocaine habit.
Please understand that her being a prostitute had no bearing on the decisions made in this case. I only offer it as a point of clarity as to why she was in the company of these two suspects.
One of the suspects, Dana Rankin admitted his part in the murder, and was proffered a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony against his second cousin Shawntell Moses.
The autopsy report in this case stated that Miss Peterson was stabbed multiple times.
In reality, it was far worse than this, and news reports were not completely forthcoming. The wounds inflicted on Miss Peterson were more than multiple and much more horrific.
Without going over the evidence in this case all over again, I can say that it was very difficult for some on the jury to find Mr. Moses guilty of murder for many different reasons.
I have to admit that my personal feeling was that Shawntell Moses was guilty of murder.
However, there were not enough people on the jury who felt the same way.
I was not alone in my belief, but there were simply not enough votes to find him guilty of any charge.
Since this was a cold case, it is ironic that the Portland Police Bureau and our city council are now considering disbanding the cold case squad and possibly turning it into a completely volunteer operation.
Shawntell Moses and his second cousin were turned in to Crime Stoppers by Mrs. Heather Moses, Shawntell’s wife. It then fell into the hands of the Portland Police Bureau’s cold case unit.
After speaking with my fellow jurors after the trial, there was speculation that this case could be used as an example for the Police Bureau and the city council to alter or abandon the cold case unit altogether.
With 300 unsolved murders in the Portland area since the 1970s, it is completely unconscionable to think we should go backwards when it comes to solving ANY murder.
Despite the lack of direct evidence in our case, and conflicting and unbelievable testimony from certain witnesses, we should not throw in the towel and give up on closing ANY murder case simply because of money.
Despite my personal feelings regarding the guilt or innocence of Mr. Moses in this case, I still feel horrible that her family could not find complete closure regarding Kala Kim Peterson’s murder. This was a comment I read in news reports after the case was over with.
Yes, Dana Rankin will spend the next 24 years in prison for his part in Miss Peterson’s murder. He got credit for the past year that he has spent in jail.
Shawntell Moses got out of jail within hours of our verdict.
Is it fair? In my opinion…No.
Is it complete justice? It depends on your opinion and how you measure complete justice.
Does it please everyone? Of course not.
Is there a better system anywhere on our planet? I don’t believe so.
I can say this with certainty…..I will never forget Kala Kim Peterson, even though I never met her. I made certain that everyone in the jury room knew how I felt as well.
I also believe my fellow jurors will also remember her for a very long time.
But I also know that her family will miss her and will never forget what happened in this Multnomah County courtroom.
I believe every one of my fellow jurors was affected in some way after reviewing the horrific evidence, and listening to graphic testimony for the past few weeks.
I was not the only person complaining of lost sleep the past few weeks. Other jurors had various complaints as well.
Despite graphic and horrific images available on television in recent years, it is a completely different experience to view graphic images of a murder up close, and then listen to testimony that isn’t part of a dramatic television show.
In short, it is sickening to review evidence as a juror in a case like this, no matter how tough you think you are.
I cannot speak for the judge in this case, but he viewed every piece of evidence and listened to all of the testimony as every member of the jury also had to.
Nobody is immune from the affects of viewing violent and horrific images and listening to testimony offered in this case.
I believe that all my fellow jurors, in some strange way, could also see the pain Miss Peterson endured before her death.
Is there complete closure for Kala Kim Peterson’s family? No.
Was this verdict the best we could come up with in this case? Given the fact that every juror’s opinion carries the same amount of weight, I cannot say we could have done better, despite my personal feelings.
Early on in jury selection, we were reminded of the old movie “Twelve Angry Men”.
In that courtroom, Henry Fonda was the lone juror who felt the suspect was not guilty. Eleven other jurors felt the suspect was guilty.
Henry Fonda convinced his 11 fellow jurors that the suspect in their case was not guilty.
Of course we were not on television. But we were twelve individuals with varying backgrounds and experiences and many different opinions.
Unless there are several people on a jury with a substantive bias that is undiscovered, it cannot be said that the verdicts could have been better or different.
If the Portland Police Bureau, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office and the city council can learn anything from this case, it is that they can always do better, no matter what the circumstances.
Cold cases are not always a slam dunk and I can speculate they are NEVER EASY.
But that does not mean we should throw in the towel and give up on any important case.
I can say that many of my fellow jurors felt that there was plenty of blame to throw around when it came to the state proving the guilt of Mr. Moses.
My hope is that everyone can learn something new and move on. Of course I don’t expect Kala Kim Peterson’s family to move on any time soon.
Kala Kim Peterson will live on in the hearts and minds of many, many people, especially mine.
My hope and prayer is that change and improvement in our police and justice system can also be held in the hearts and minds of those who have any part of it.
Tell ’em where you saw it. Http://www.victoriataft.com