It’s not often that the public gets a look inside the jury room. It’s even rarer when you are told some of the specific statements that are made during deliberations.
The case was and is a very serious one. Keno Roberts, a black man, was charged with killing his stepson, who was three years old. He was arrested and was held without bail at Rikers Island for four years. Earlier this month, a jury acquitted Roberts of murder, but they were unable to reach a verdict on the lesser charge of second degree manslaughter. Reports say that all but one of the jurors – juror no. 7 – were in favor of acquittal. After juror no. 7 was questioned by the judge, the members of the panel were ordered to continue to deliberate.
The racial/ethnic make-up of the panel was largely non-white. In fact, juror no. 7 was the only white juror on the panel. The other members were black, Latino and Asian. And after the mistrial was declared, the jurors began to speak out. One of them stated that the outcome was based on racism, specifically the alleged racism of juror no. 7. Some members of the jury stated that the white juror claimed the defendant, a black man, must be guilty, since the indictment was handled by a black district attorney. For his part, juror no. 7 claimed that he was targeted by other jurors, and was threatened with physical harm during the deliberations. Late last week Judge Barbara Newman said she had no alternative but to declare a mistrial.
There were, however, plenty of fingers being pointed in the case, not all of them having to do with the alleged racism of juror no. 7. They include allegations against the child’s mother, who stated that she was alone with the child during the four-hour period prior to his death. (The medical examiner testified that the boy’s body was covered with fresh bruises.) And the holdout also claims that several of the other jurors were sleeping at various times during the two-week trial.
All in all, it was a bit of chaos that provided a glimpse into the workings of a jury in a criminal case. We expect there will be a new trial on the manslaughter charge in the not too distant future.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016