by Max Brantley
The Times' David Koon had a lengthy interview today with a member of the jury that convicted Curtis Lavelle Vance of the capital murder of KATV's Anne Pressly, but couldn't reach a unanimous verdict on recommending the death penalty for her rape and beating death.
The juror did not wish to be identified. But the juror echoed earlier reporting by Fox 16 and a juror who called KARN last week. The juror told David there were three firm votes against the death penalty on the 12-person jury after testimony was offered on aggravating and mitigating circumstances. They indicated no amount of deliberation would sway them.
David's notes on the interview follow:
On why juror wants to remain anonymous: "I don't want people bothering me about it....There are a lot of people upset. I don't want my name used at all"
On the personal difficulty of the trial: "It was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I'm glad it's over."
On the deliberations as to whether Vance should be found guilty of capital murder: "I don't think that there was anybody who really thought that he wasn't (guilty of capital murder) but they wanted to carefully go through our notes and the evidence we were given just to make sure we were making the right decision. We just took our time and really discussed it and really thought it through. It was very emotional for all of us."
On whether the more graphic testimony about Pressly's injuries was rehashed in the jury room: "There were some things that we all knew and we didn't need to bring back up. There was no point in rehashing and discussing it. Mainly the things that we discussed and went through was just the evidence we were given, especially the DNA evidence and the confessions."
On whether Vance's statement to police that he had accomplices had any bearing on deliberations: "We never talked about that, Mainly, for us, the last confession that he gave was really the one that really set everybody's mind about the whole trial. He had changed his demeanor completely during that confession, and we felt like that for once he was being partially truthful about it. That was the turning point, I think, for most everybody."
On whether testimony by Vance's family during the penalty phase had any effect on jurors minds about Vance: "I can't say about everybody else. I know that it was emotional to hear about his family and about his upbringing, but to hear from her family and her friends as well. I think that though we were all affected by all of that, we were still trying to make a smart decision about what to do. I think obviously hearing that, it's going to affect how you're going to think in some way."
On why the jury found that prosecutors hadn't proven the aggravating factors that Vance committed the crime for pecuniary gain and for the purpose of silencing a witness: "All I can say about those is [that] to mark any of those, it had to be unanimous and it wasn't."
On why the jury decided to spare Vance's life instead of giving him the death penalty: "There was no way of changing the minds of those who were against it. As a matter of fact, one juror at one point, he said: if we stay here until 5 o'clock tomorrow morning, are you going to change your mind? The answer was no. And so, we just realized that there was no point in us staying and deliberating it. It wasn't going to be unanimous, therefore we had to give a life sentence."
On how many jurors refused to impose death: "It ended up being three people."
On whether the jury broke on racial lines: "I'm not going to answer that. I don't think that should matter. Again, I don't mind telling what I did, but I think as far as everybody else, that's up to them on whether they want to share. I don't think it would be fair to pinpoint who was on each side."
On whether this juror was for sentencing Vance to death: "I was for the death penalty. We all agreed that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances. What it came down to was whether the aggravating circumstances justified the death penalty. I felt like it did."
On how the jury could find that the aggravators outweighted the mitigators, and yet still went for life without parole: "We did agree with that, but the part that got those people hung up was the part that said aggravated circumstances justify [the death penalty] without a reasonable doubt. That was kind of what got them hung up.
The juror said that there was no discussion by the jurors who refused to impose death as to whether testimony from Vance's family members had a bearing on their refusal to impose the death penalty.