It was a scene out of 12 Angry Men: A single holdout kept a jury from reaching a unanimous guilty verdict. Then minds started changing.
The scene took place not on film but in a real-live jury room in the state Superior Court building on Church Street.
And it was four men and two women—not 12 men—trying to decide the case.
A judge directed them to decide whether 33-year-old Jewu Richardson was guilty of 10 charges in connection with a Jan. 16, 2010 car chase, including charges of assaulting a police officer.
In the end, the intense, emotional jury deliberations—a capstone to an intense, emotional two-week trial that filled the courtroom with cops and critics of police misconduct—led Judge Raheem L. Mullins to declare a mistrial Friday afternoon.
Police officers and court workers who had watched the trial from one side of the courtroom filed out glumly. To people on that side of the courtroom, a felon was getting away with running from the cops and trying to run one of them over.
Richardson and his supporters—who had filled the other side of the courtroom during the trial—erupted in cheers and hugs outside the courtroom. To these observers, police would have gotten away with unjustly shooting an unarmed man if the jury had found Jewu Richardson guilty.
One of the hugs was between Richardson and activist Emma Jones (pictured), whose son Malik Jones was shot dead by an East Haven police officer at the end of a chase that occurred six years ago this Sunday.
“This one right here is for Malik Jones!” Richardson remarked as supporters chanted, “Justice for Jewu!”
Then came group hugs with the supporters and two of the departing jurors, including the original holdout juror.
That holdout juror, DJ and Yale employee James Chapman Jr., was persuaded by Richardson’s attorney, Diane Polan, that the conduct of police should be on trial, too, in the case. Polan put on evidence during the trial that a police supervisor three separate times called off the police chase only to be disobeyed. At the chase’s conclusion an officer ended up on the hood of Richardson’s Acura and shot Richardson in the chest. (Richardson survived and filed a civil suit against the city; click here for an in-depth account of the incident.)
Wednesday afternoon, then all Thursday, the six jurors considered the charges. Even Polan had said in her final statement to the jury that Richardson was guilty of at least some of the minor charges against him. Yet Chapman argued that because of the police’s behavior, he couldn’t vote for any guilty verdicts.
Stuck, the jury sent the judge two notes on Thursday.
“We are unlikely to reach a verdict. A single juror votes the same verdict on every count. We are unable to deliberate the individual elements of each charge. Too much emotion. We reached tentative consensus yesterday on 3 of 10 counts, only to learn today that this juror reversed to their original verdict. This note was read aloud and agreed to by all jurors,” read a note sent at 11:30 a.m.
Keep trying, the judge said.
Another note came at around 4 p.m.
“One juror is having difficulty putting aside his or her worldview to focus” on the case, the note read. The juror “acknowledges that his or her past experiences are interfering” with his or her ability to come to a decision, the note read. The juror recognizes that he or she “may not be capable of the neutral objectivity that is needed.”
Judge Mullins told the jury to go home, “meditate,” and come back in the morning.
A 2nd Holdout Emerges
They did. Juror Tammy Morris Jones, a mental-health worker from Waterbury, went home and meditated about what Chapman kept saying in the jury room. She meditated in particular about Polan’s exchanges with the police sergeant who had called off the chases and issued a scathing memo. Jones decided she, too, couldn’t convict Richardson of any charges. She thought about how the sergeant, Doug Harkins, had criticized the officers for “recklessness” and a “complete lack of discipline.” “This incident yielded nothing but risk of injury to persons and property with the recovery of no contraband,” Harkins wrote.
The prosecutor, Jack Doyle, had repeatedly sought to convince the jury that police actions were not on trial. Richardson, and Richardson alone, was responsible for what happened on the evening of Jan. 10, 2010, because he decided to flee from police while driving drunk in an unregistered car with another car’s license plates.
By Thursday night that argument was losing influence on Tammy Jones.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with the charges,” Jones concluded. “I went home and I just thought about everything. I just wanted to be fair.”
Come Friday morning, at least two jurors were now reluctant to vote guilty on any charges.
A Final Try
Before the jurors resumed deliberating Friday morning, attorneys on both sides urged Judge Mullins to take actions based on Thursday’s notes. Neither side knew a second holdout had emerged.
Prosecutor Doyle asked the judge to interview the known holdout juror to see if she or he should be removed from the jury. A juror needs to be “neutral” and “objective,” Doyle argued.
Defense attorney Polan argued that that such an inquiry would interfere with and “invade” the sanctity of the jury process. She noted that both sides got to grill potential jurors in open court before the trial began to make sure they’d be fair arbiters. Once evidence is presented in a trial, Polan argued, jurors need not to remain “neutral.”
“They’re supposed to develop opinions” on the case, she argued.
Polan moved instead to have the judge declare a mistrial.
After hearing their arguments, Judge Mullins stated that Doyle made a “reasonable” request for an inquiry, but that it was too soon.
Instead, he brought in the jury and instructed it to try again. He issued what’s called a “Chip Smith” directive: He asked the known holdout juror not to “acquiesce” to the majority, but, “in order to bring your minds to a unanimous result,” to show “due regard and deference” the the majority.
“Listen with an open mind to each other’s opinions,” Mullins said. Keep in mind, he said, that other jurors are “equally intelligent” even if they have reached a different conclusion.
He added this directive: “Do not ever change your mind because other jurors see things differently or to get the case over with.”
Mullins then dispatched the jury to get back to work.
“There’s no need to hurry,” he said.
The nuances in Mullins’ directive can be traced to the history of the so-called “Chip Smith” charge to juries deadlocked with a holdout or two. Over the years, some lawyers have called the directive “coercive” to the minority. (Attorney Polan made that argument again in court Friday morning.) As a result, the courts have directed judges to add the kind of proviso Mullins added Friday.
“They Broke The Law”
It didn’t take long for the jury to realize it was getting further from, not closer, to a resolution. At 12:10 p.m., out came another note, written, as were the others, by the foreman, who’s a physician.
“We are not making progress,” the note read. “We have less consensus today than yesterday. One fundamental issue dominates EVERY discussion of every element of every charge. The guilt or innocence of the police. Not all jurors can exclude this topic from any element of any charge.
“Juror quote: ‘They broke the law. How can you convict anyone of anything in such a case?’
“6 of 6 jurors believe we cannot reach a unanimous verdict. On that we are unanimous.”
Judge Mullins brought out the jury. He asked the foreman if the jury might be able to decide on at least some of the 10 charges. The foreman said it was possible. Back the jury went to try.
In less than an hour came the final word: No dice.
Minutes before 1 p.m., Judge Mullins declared a mistrial. He dismissed the jurors. He also went into a side room to share some final private words with them.
The state can move for a new trial. Prosecutor Jack Doyle declined to comment on whether the state will pursue that option.
“I don’t think the state’s case is going to get any better,” said Richardson’s attorney, Diane Polan.
“We were very successful at putting the police on trial in this case,” she said. “At least some jurors saw that as the main issue in the case.”