As a juror on Reuben Bell’s February 1997 murder trial (“Sucker Punch,” 3/27), I speak with some authority when I say that former Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Gansler is way off base in his perception of the jury’s deliberation.
You quote Gansler as saying, “You had someone here who was a local hero, and the jury did not want to believe that he did what he did.” In fact, no one on the jury had ever heard of Reuben Bell; we did not see him as any kind of local hero. And why would we not want to believe that he did not commit a murder? As District residents, none of us were surprised that heinous and pointless murders occur, none of us felt that such murders should go unpunished, and none of us had any reason to want to be lenient toward Reuben Bell.
Why did we acquit Bell? We based our decisionsurprise!on whether the facts presented to us constituted a convincing argument that Bell was the murderer. And Mr. Gansler’s case simply did not do that. His two star witnesses were completely uncredible. They did not understand the complicated, 10-clause legalese questions that Mr. Gansler asked them, and Gansler was unable to rephrase them in any simpler way. They contradicted themselves in their testimonies; they contradicted what they had said in their grand jury testimonies; they contradicted each other. They also had motives to have committed the crime in question themselves. Even the third eyewitness, whose testimony on the stand made a more or less coherent story, contradicted what he had said in his grand jury testimony on points that were key to the prosecutor’s argument.
Furthermore, Gansler’s insinuation that the defense attorney used Bell’s status as a boxer to sway the jury to an innocent verdict is ridiculous. Bell’s boxing career played no role whatsoever in our deliberations. The claim is especially ridiculous given that Gansler himself tried to use Bell’s role as a boxer to his own case’s advantage, forwarding the inane argument that boxers are by definition violent people, and therefore Bell must have committed the crime.
In addition to sitting on the jury, I was also one of the three people who talked to Mr. Gansler with Aurore Bleck, the jury foreperson, after the trial. She is right in saying that much of the information Gansler told us after the trial did in fact make his case much more convincing. However, your article is misleading as to why that information never made it to the trial. While some of it was ruled out by the judge, as Gansler remarked to City Paper writers, according to what Gansler told us (the three jury members who talked with him after the trial), some of it was information from other eyewitnesses who at the last minute ended up not testifying. If these witnesses had indeed testified, then it would have been a different trial; but that’s not a question of the judge ruling their testimonies inadmissible.
From the context in which your article places Bleck’s comment, “If we had heard [that information] we would have voted to convict,” it sounds as if she’s making the claim that the whole jury would have voted to convict. Clearly, Ms. Bleck has no authority to speak for what other individuals on the jury would have done under different circumstances, and no way of knowing what the trial would have been like had other information been included. It’s impossible to know how jury deliberations would have gone with a completely different set of facts. Given the facts that the prosecution presented us with, and the prosecution’s choice to put two extraordinarily uncredible witnesses on the stand, it would have been completely unfounded and irresponsible for the jury to have given a guilty verdict in this case.