|The following was written by Steve Doell in support of
Measure 72, a referendum on the Oregon ballot on November 2, 1999.
My personal experience is illustrative of how a single rogue juror can subvert justice.
On October 21, 1992, my life was shattered forever. On that afternoon, a car drove onto the shoulder of a Lake Oswego street and struck my 12-year old daughter, Lisa, as she was walking to her grandparents' house after school. The force of the impact hurled Lisa's little body into a nearby tree. Rather than stop and call for help, the driver fled the scene. Lisa, my darling child, was already dead when a passing motorist discovered her mangled body. The only clue as to the identity of Lisa's killer was a license plate found nearby.
The police quickly traced the license plate to Andrew Whitaker. When confronted with the physical evidence, Whitaker admitted that Lisa's death was not an accident. Whitaker confessed he killed Lisa "on purpose".
What initially appeared to be an open and shut case, turned into anything but that. After a year of legal wrangling, Andrew Whitaker was finally brought to trial. During the trial, the jury heard Whitaker's confession as well as evidence that Lisa was on the shoulder of the street when struck by Whitaker's car. The jury also learned that prior to Lisa's murder, Whitaker shared with friends his fantasy of killing someone. To everyone's amazement, however the jury did not convict Whitaker of murder! Luckily for Whitaker, one of the jurors refused to vote for murder because her son had been involved in a traffic accident involving a child. To their disgust, the other jurors were forced to settle for a lesser crime of second-degree manslaughter in order to avoid the case ending in a hung jury. As a result, Whitaker served only 28 months in prison!
The following is a statement made during a Town Hall television program by the jury foreman, Bill Mason, in support of Measure 72 on October 14, 1999.
I sat on a murder jury 6 years ago and sat with 11 other people who were instructed by the courts to honestly weigh the facts and forget their own opinions and listen to the facts. And we sat and listened to facts for three weeks. We listened to the defendant say that they purposely killed somebody. We listened to the defendant's friends who had firsthand information that came from that defendant where he bragged about it, he wrote books where he talked about violently killing people and stalking people. This defendant stated clearly that he purposely murdered the person and we listened to that. We weren't allowed to talk about it. That's the system.
We went to deliberation and we talked for three days. We thought all of the jurors were obeying the rules, they were really honestly debating the facts and weighing them. We found in the end that there was one person that would have never, from day one, she had a fixation, this was a poor young boy who couldn't have done this, even though she listened to the police tapes where he admitted doing it, where we were read these terrible books where he talked about murdering people, she would not believe that this person was capable of doing it and because of that she would not return a vote of guilty.