Thursday, June 2, 2011

James Fayed Jury Foreman Shares His Thoughts

Update: June 2nd, 2011 10:59 am: Additional comment added from the jury foreman at the end of the entry. JAMES FAYED TRIAL QUICK LINKS. Sprocket.

The day after the penalty verdict was reached, I awoke to receive an E-mail from Juror #3, the jury foreman, thanking me for my Fayed trial summaries. He also asked when I might have up on the blog the rest of Day 6 and Day 7. He was curious as to what happened on Day 7, outside the jury's presence.

Before you start getting any wild ideas about "how" the foreman found T&T, do a search on Google Web (not Google News) for "James Fayed" and you will see that several entries of T&T come up before any mainstream media news stories do.

I wrote him back, thanking him for his jury service. I explained that I am not affiliated with any news organization and that it will probably be several days for me to get the last days of trial up on the blog since I needed to get caught up on my home responsibilities first. I also said that if he had any questions, I would be happy to try to answer and that I would keep our communications confidential until he gave me permission to share them.

The foreman wrote back, asking about what happened with all the questioning of the jury that occurred on the last day of trial. He also said that I could ask him questions about the jury's deliberation process.

I had a ton of questions floating through my head and I just kept writing them one after another. After I got my long list detailed, I realized it was probably a bit much so I made sure to say to him, "please only answer those questions you feel comfortable answering."

Late last night, I got a reply from him. He also said that I could share his answers on the blog so T&T's readers could get a glimpse of their deliberations.

From the very beginning of his answers, one easily gets a sense as to why the other jurors chose this thoughtful man as their foreman. I have always wondered what the experience would be like deliberating another individual's fate with twelve people I barely know. If I am ever in that situation, I would want someone exactly like Juror #3 to help guide us through the process.

E-Mail Interview with Juror #3, the jury foreman.

Sprocket: Did you get along as a group?

Jury Foreman: Yes, quite well overall, I would say. Obviously, as is the case with virtually any group discussion, there were some tense moments, but I believe everyone understood that any disagreements were philosophical in nature, and weren't meant to be taken personally. We got to know each other while waiting before the courtroom was open, during breaks, and during lunches. Some of the other jurors traded coupons, exchanged books, DVDs, etc. We brought pastries and sweets for one another, as well.

Sprocket: Were there any "holdouts" on guilt or penalty?

Jury Foreman: The first ballot in the penalty phase was not unanimous. That said, we were very focused and methodical in our discussions, and in both phases (not just penalty), we delayed voting until we had thoroughly covered all of the evidence and testimony. We did not want to take an early vote, simply because the feeling was that people might feel obligated to stick to that position and "defend" it, rather than staying open-minded.

In the penalty phase, we did not take our first vote until Friday morning. We deliberated Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday and Thursday before we reached a point where everyone felt comfortable voting. Once we realized that there was a minority opinion, we gave those in the minority the chance to speak their minds, tell the rest of us how they'd reached their positions, and see if they had insight that might help the rest of us see the decision in a way we perhaps hadn't considered. During those discussions, a couple of the people actually changed their minds.

At the end of the day Friday, we were at 11-1 in favor of the death penalty. At that point, the "1" asked to take the three-day weekend to think things over. We made it very clear to that juror that there was no pressure to change their vote simply to go along with the crowd. I also made it clear that I would not sign the verdict form for the death penalty if they changed their mind unless I was convinced that they truly believed that it was the appropriate decision. On Tuesday morning, the juror convinced all of us that they had reached their decision to change to voting for the death penalty through a very deliberate and well thought out process.

At that point, we had a unanimous verdict in which we all felt confident.

Sprocket: Are you still in contact with any of your fellow jurors?

Yes. Many of us exchanged e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers during the trial or at the end of deliberations. I know that I've made several friends during the process and hope that I didn't make any enemies--so I'd consider it a positive experience from that standpoint!

Sprocket: Did you have, individually or as a group a negative or positive feeling about any of the attorneys?

Jury Foreman: I don't wish to speak for anyone else on this question, but will answer with my personal feelings. First off, I think it's important to point out that while I may have had a better impression of the "performance" of one attorney or another, that did not in any way factor into my decision-making process in either phase.

In general, I felt that both Jackson and Harmon were more impressive and compelling than either Werksman or Meister. They seemed to be better prepared and more "polished," for lack of a better term. By polished, I don't mean to imply a "slickness" or a "coldness." Quite the opposite, in fact. I felt that Jackson and Harmon presented their evidence in an engaging manner that was emotional appealing, but also had great substance. Their styles (particularly Jackson's) were more conversational than combative or aggressive.

Regarding the defense attorneys, I feel that Meister is a comrade-in-arms, since my Power Point skills are as rudimentary as his! But on a serious note, I don't have anything particularly positive or negative to say about either of them. I just did not feel a connection to either of them.

Sprocket: Was there any one witness that really convinced the jury he was guilty, or was it the totality of the prosecution's case?

Jury Foreman: I don't think it was any one particular witness or piece of testimony, though obviously the taped conversation with Shawn Smith carried a lot of weight in both phases. In the guilt phase, we relied heavily on the cell phone records and cell phone tower testimony, in addition to the taped conversation.

Sprocket: Did you believe any part of Patricia, "Patty" Taboga's testimony?

Jury Foreman: Quite simply, no. It seemed like a desperate ploy by the defense, though I don't hold it against them for trying. During the guilt phase, after figuring out some administrative details (e.g., choosing the foreperson, dividing up other responsibilities such as evidence-handling and note-taking, etc.), Taboga's testimony was the first thing we discussed, since to me it seemed to be the easiest to dismiss. It was inconsistent and contradictory. If she did not take Mary Mercedes' proposition seriously, then why did she ever report it, even 32 days before the trial? Conversely, if she did feel that the proposition was serious and represented a real threat, then it's hard to believe that she would not have mentioned it to anyone shortly after it occurred, regardless of Mary's request not to do so.

Sprocket: What did that feel like, to hold the gold kilo bar?

Jury Foreman: It's amazing that something that small could be so heavy--and it's also amazing to think of the power that something as small as a gold bar can exert on people.

Sprocket: What did the jury think of Mr. Fayed's demeanor in court?

I'll answer this one from my personal perspective, rather than speaking for the jury. To me, he didn't seem to show much emotion at all during the case until Melanie Jackman took the stand on the last day of testimony in the penalty phase. That was the only time that I personally observed any real spark in his demeanor, and you could tell that there was a genuine connection between the two.

That said, his demeanor in court ultimately didn't play a part in my decision-making process. His lack of remorse in general (whether on the Shawn Smith recording or in the taped call with Mary Mercedes) was far more damning than how he carried himself in court.

Sprocket: At any point did it become difficult to keep the deliberations on a forward path?

Jury Foreman: No, not really. In the guilt phase, there was no lull at all that I can remember. At a certain point during the penalty phase, the thought did cross my mind that we might reach an impasse, but obviously we ultimately overcame it. A few jurors needed more time during the penalty phase to make up their minds, which I think was entirely appropriate, given the gravity of the situation.

Sprocket: Were any initial votes taken during guilty or penalty where you were far apart in votes?

Jury Foreman: I touched on this in an earlier answer, at least regarding the penalty phase. In the guilt phase, we were unanimous on the first ballots for First Degree Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Murder, as well as one of the special circumstances. For the other special circumstance, our initial vote was 11-1 for "True," but the "1" was due to a slight misreading of the instructions regarding that special circumstance on the part of one juror. Once we walked that juror through the instructions again, they quickly changed their vote, and we were unanimous.

Sprocket: What did you think of Mr. Fayed's penalty phase witnesses?

Jury Foreman: I didn't think they helped him much--though they did not hurt him, either. James Sadler hadn't spoken to Fayed in roughly 20 years, so for me personally, his testimony didn't add anything to the mix. Similarly, James Tyler had generally positive things to say about Fayed, but he also hadn't spoken to him in many years. A side note on Tyler: I noticed that he actually mispronounced Fayed's name, saying it like the word "fade." To me, I found it somewhat odd that a supposed good friend didn't even know the correct pronunciation. I also found it amusing that Werksman seemed to make a point to repeatedly emphasize the correct pronunciation of Fayed in his subsequent questions for Tyler.

I've covered Jackman in an earlier answer regarding Fayed's demeanor, though I'll add that while their connection was evident, I did find the focus on the motorcycles to be mildly distracting.

In sum, for me personally, it ultimately came down to the fact that I didn't see these witnesses as presenting anything concrete that could be used as strong mitigating factors. Having a few friends is the norm and, to oversimplify things, I don't see why anyone should "get credit" for that.

Sprocket: Do you think you, or any of the jurors will agree to be on camera for the Dateline or 48 Hours shows?

Jury Foreman: I have spoken to producers involved with both shows, and have agreed to speak to them on camera. I know that at least one other juror has had a preliminary discussion with Dateline, as well. When we were getting our proof of jury service paperwork after the penalty was read, a couple of other jurors expressed potential interest in getting together for group interviews.

Sprocket: How does it feel to finally be able to discuss the case with loved ones, family?

Jury Foreman: It's a relief! That was one of the hardest parts of the process for me, as I'm naturally quite a talker (as is probably evident by the length of some of these responses...). It was difficult not to be able to have someone to bounce my own feelings off of during the trial.

Sprocket: Did the brutality of the crime, and having to see photos, the aftermath of what happened to Pamela affect you or any of the jurors?

Jury Foreman: I think you'd have to be inhuman or a psychopath to not be affected to some degree by the photos, as well as the testimony from Desiree and Pam's friends (Shelby Hamilton's testimony in the penalty phase was particularly compelling to me, due to her brutal honesty and the raw emotions she expressed). Edwin Rivera's testimony regarding the immediate aftermath of the stabbing was memorable, and was brought up in deliberations, particularly in the penalty phase when we were discussing the aggravating factors.

Jury Foreman: I hope these responses answer your questions. Feel free to use them on the blog, if you'd like, and I'm fine with you identifying me as the source of the responses. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Update June 2nd, 2011 10:59 am:
The jury foreman asked me to add these additional comments. Sprocket.

Jury Foreman: Thanks for the post, and for the compliments. I would like to deflect the attention away from me personally, though, and direct it to the jury as a whole. We really did work well together, and whatever contributions I might have made were only a small part of what we did collectively. I've heard many horror stories from other people about their experiences on juries, and I was pleasantly surprised with the commitment and intelligence of my fellow jurors on whole.

Again, thank you so much Juror #3, for your service and the dedication and commitment you put into this trial. Sprocket.


Chris said...

Sprocket . . . what a coup! Great stuff and congrats on the scoop. Amazing to see how the process played out and, yes, I agree #3 appears to have been awesome. Many thanks again for the coverage. Chris B

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the foreman and the other members of the jury for their service. As always, a great job of covering the trial.

David In TN

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sprocket for great coverage of the trial. I found totally fascinating your "interview" with the juror. Hope there are the same intelligent and thoughtful jurors on the Anthony jury. I look forward to your next trial coverage. (have you made a decision yet?)

Sprocket said...

Thank you Chris, David, Anon.

Fortunately for this jury foreman, it was a positive experience. It's not always that way for everyone who serves on a jury.

I think the prosecution will present overwhelming evidence of Anthony's guilt. I don't think there will be any problems in convicting her of the guilt phase. Where I see a possible issue is the penalty phase.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, my next case will be Stephanie Lazarus. That is, unless something happens and I get on a jury at the Metropolitan Courthouse on S. Hill Street in early July. You know I'll have to blog about that.