Jury Duty, Part 12: The Verdict

In which the jury delivers the verdict

After 1 full day of deliberations, going home and sleeping on it, and then another half day of deliberating, we are finally ready to fill out the verdict notebook.

In order to render the verdict, the foreman has to fill out a notebook of printed sheets of paper that is given to us.

Each defendant has 2 sheets for each charge (one sheet that says we find them not guilty, and one sheet that says we find them guilty). The guilty sheets will then enumerate each additional charge associated with the count of murder; for example an additional charge was ‘felon armed with a firearm.’

Foreman has to check the box for true if we find them guilty and false if we do not find them guilty of each additional charge.

We find them all guilty of everything except in the case of Defendant 1 with regard to multiple murder. There wasn’t evidence that he murdered both victims to convince everyone. We have people who couldn’t vote guilty, so we leave that charge blank. We’ll come back to that later.

So once the foreman completes all of the check boxes for the charges, he then signs the bottom of the sheet with his juror number (in this case he was juror #1) and dates it.

Once the entire notebook is filled out, we buzz the bailiff 3 times on the buzzer and wait to be called back down.

It only takes them about 20 minutes to call us back down; as we walk into the courtroom we see that the courtroom is pretty full; people who are obviously family are present, several of the witnesses who spoke on the stand, and about 2 dozen cops are there… I guess in case there is an incident?

The foreman hands the verdict binder to the bailiff, who then hands the binder to the court clerk. In many TV shows it shows the jury foreman reading the verdict, but we don’t do that in this case.

As the guilty verdicts are read, the defendants really only shake their heads; there isn’t much in the way of reaction. Once the clerk is done reading the verdicts, each defense attorney asks that the jury be polled to make sure that the verdict is our actual answer. We all affirm that the verdict was truly ours.

For the “multiple murder” special circumstance that we were unable to convict on… the DA calls a sidebar when the clerk doesn’t bring it up during the verdict reading. The judge & counsel are in his chambers for a few minutes before coming back out; the judge asks the foreman if we left it blank because we were unable to get consensus. He says yes. The judge asks him if it would make a difference if we spent more time deliberating, and the foreman tells him no, because it is unlikely we’d get consensus on it. In light of that, the judge declares a mistrial for special circumstance of multiple murder.

In that moment I have a bit of a panic attack; I think the past 2 months were wasted. But no, it is only a mistrial for the one special circumstance. The other guilty verdicts still apply.

Afterwards, the judge thanks us for our service, apologizes that it was such a lengthy trial, and tells us that we can now talk about the trial! That part actually makes me laugh, because for 3 solid months he would tell us several times a day that we are not to speak about the trial to anyone.

We are ushered back upstairs and begin to disperse. We tell each other goodbye; surprisingly it is somewhat bittersweet. I mean, we’d spent the last 3 months together every day, and despite what I said in the first post (about how I wouldn’t really care about the jurors if I got selected) I am sad to see them go.

Two other jurors and myself stick around, because the judge told us that we are able to speak to the DA and defense lawyers afterwards if we liked. We hang out in the jury room for a little bit, and the DA and private sector lawyer for Tabron come up to speak to us. The DA tells us that she thought we made the right choice (obviously), and defense tells us that one of the victims was a confirmed hit man for a gang who was there that night to kill someone; something that no evidence was presented for because it was likely not even true.

Someone asks defense if he thinks his client is innocent. He tells us that no, he doesn’t think his client is innocent (something he’s said several times during the trial*) and even believes that his client murdered someone; he just wanted us to not believe it and not convict based on the felony murder rule.

Fuckin' lawyers, man.

Defense leaves shortly thereafter, and we stick around to talk to the DA. We ask her a lot of things that we didn’t get answers for in the trial, and it was nice to get more info finally.

One of the prosecutors who was in the audience chairs for much of the trial tells me that she could tell when I had enough of a topic, because I guess I don’t have much of a poker face. I told her that yeah, sometimes the defense would harp on a topic way more than was necessary.

Anyway… that’s that. The trial is over, but I will probably go back on Feb. 27 for the sentencing, just out of curiosity.

*His position is that his client was guilty of robbery, kidnapping and whatnot, but NOT murder. We didn’t buy it, obviously.

Oakland: Three ex-cons convicted of murder in home invasion robbery

OAKLAND – Three men with previous felony convictions were each found guilty Wednesday of two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of two people during a home invasion robbery in East Oakland last year.

After a lengthy trial, jurors only deliberated for a day and a half before reaching their verdicts against 24-year-old Joseph Tabron, 56-year-old Joseph Castro and 50-year-old Joseph Silva in the shooting deaths of Noe Garcia, 28, of Oakland, and 34-year-old Trisha Forde, of Union City, on March 2, 2013.

The three men showed little emotion when the verdicts were announced.

In addition to the two murder counts, jurors also convicted Tabron of three special circumstance murder allegations, two for killing Garcia and Forde during a robbery and one for killing Forde during a kidnapping.

Tabron faces life in prison without the possibility of parole and Silva and Castro also face life sentences.

Prosecutor Georgia Santos said in her closing argument that the three defendants, plus two other men, went to the house to steal flat-screen televisions and a San Francisco Giants bobblehead, and Forde and Garcia were killed because they were witnesses to the home invasion robbery at a house in the 10700 block of Apricot Street.

Santos said the evidence in the trial indicates that Tabron fatally shot Garcia, but it’s unclear who killed Forde.

But she said all three defendants should be convicted of murder under the felony-murder rule, which holds that if a killing occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony, the persons responsible for the felony can be found guilty of murder.

Silva gave a statement to Oakland police in September 2013 in which he accepted partial responsibility for the crime and implicated Tabron and Castro, who is Tabron’s uncle.

Silva retracted his statement when he testified during the trial for the three defendants.

His attorney, John McDougall, said in his closing argument that he believes Silva cracked under tough questioning by police officers, citing the testimony of a psychologist who examined Silva and found that he’s “an insecure, passive and dependent individual” and “has high levels of compliance and suggestibility.”

But Santos told jurors that they should believe Silva’s confession to police because it’s supported by evidence in the case.

However, defense attorney William DuBois, who represents Tabron, told jurors in his closing argument that he thinks the killings remain “unsolved.” His theory is that Garcia killed Forde out of jealousy, and someone else responded by killing Garcia.

DuBois said Tabron, Castro and Silva “are guilty of a number of crimes,” including robbery, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon and grand theft, but not murder because he believes there was no connection between the home invasion robbery and the deaths of Garcia and Forde.

The evidence in the case indicates that Forde was killed by bullets fired from an Uzi and that Garcia suffered a wound from an Uzi bullet in his leg, but was killed by bullets fired from a semi-automatic handgun.

DuBois alleged that Garcia “was there to shoot somebody” and was armed with an Uzi. He said he believes the ballistic evidence indicates that Garcia killed Forde and then accidentally shot himself in the leg, giving another shooter an opportunity to kill him in response.

Santos said she believes the two other people who joined the three defendants in staging the home invasion robbery were Tabron’s older brother, 26-year-old Jeffrey Tabron, who will be prosecuted separately at a later date, and a man nicknamed “Taco,” who is still at large.

Prosecutors say that Castro has 12 prior felony convictions, Jeffrey Tabron has three prior convictions and Joseph Tabron has two prior convictions. They also say that Silva has prior convictions.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer is scheduled to sentence Joseph Tabron and Castro on Feb. 27 and Silva on March 6.

The Jury Duty Saga