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  • Jim Ferraro

The Jury Deliberates

On the first full day of deliberations in the Castillo-DuPont case, as the lawyers were going through the evidence with the court, the jury came back with a question regarding the science.

The jurors wanted to reread the transcript of some of the witnesses’ testimony, especially that of Dr. Robert Brent. This could be good or bad, depending on how they were looking at it. The judge denied their request and, as was usual in these types of cases, instructed the jury to go on their collective recollection. Given the lateness in the day when the jurors asked this question, I was fairly certain they weren’t coming back with a quick decision. This left everyone in limbo for the time being.

With the sun now setting, the conditions were really getting tough on the jurors. Judge Donner wanted to get them out of there with the hope that there would be blinds in the room by the time they returned the next day at 9 a.m. At the very least, she could make arrangements to keep the room cooler. There was no reasonable logic in keeping the jurors late and forcing them into unfavorable circumstances for all involved parties. The last thing we needed was a hung jury.

Ray knocked on the jury room door and asked the jury to reassemble in the courtroom, where Judge Donner expressed her genuine concern for their comfort and well-being. Recognizing that they needed more time to deliberate, she explained that while her decision to let the jury go home was for their benefit, it was critical that they not discuss the details of the case with anyone else. That was solely for their deliberations when they were all together in the same room.

The following morning, the jury was instructed to go back to the jury room, where they would resume their assessment exactly where they’d left off the evening before.

In the meantime, I had something of grave importance to bring to the court’s immediate attention. I’d noticed a big conference between the DuPont and Pine Island Farms attorneys. The discussion concerned how Judge Donner had checked on the jury in the overheated room the day before. As Liz Russo had been involved in appellate decisions in the past that might have had some relevance to this, I felt compelled to mention that it was a technical violation of law for a judge to even open the jury room door or go into the room during deliberations.

I offered on behalf of my client to waive any kind of appellate rights on this issue.

Clem Glynn agreed, while Greg Gaebe needed to confer with his client. I suggested that, in the event Gaebe’s client didn’t waive his appellate rights on this point, that the judge ask the jury when they returned with their verdict if the one or two times Judge Donner opened the door to check on the heat, or the time Ray came in to deliver sandwiches, had any impact on the deliberations. Their response could potentially alleviate any problem if there was no waiver from Greg Gaebe.

In my next post, I continue my recounting of the deliberations, and the negotiations regarding the jury.

This post is adapted from my book, Blindsided, which recounts in great detail this landmark case, and also provides a look at how the legal system works in certain cases.


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