Jury Duty – AZ vs. Gang Initiation Murderer

My husband has been a juror for the last 2 ½ months.  They finished deliberation yesterday in a capital murder trial and found the defendant guilty of murder and sentenced him to the death penalty.  It has been a crazy experience for our whole family.

Aaron White - Jury Duty Certificate

Jury Duty Certificate

For Aaron the whole process actually started in July when he was asked to appear for jury duty.

They started with over 400 jurors and by early August (and three separate appearances) had whittled the pool down to 37 people.  Since this was a capital murder trial they needed a total of 17 jurors, five of whom would be chosen randomly as alternates.  Based on the size of the case, the defense and the prosecution each removed 10 people who they absolutely did not want.

The remaining 17 jurors were essentially the people that both sides could live with.   Aaron just happened to be one of the lucky ones.

During the court case the only thing Aaron would tell me was that it was a murder case.  He fully honored the commitment he made as a juror not to discuss the case – it drove me nuts.  I’m used to a husband who comes home and tells me about his day and the discussion that occurs as a result of our experiences.  It just isn’t the same when I’m the only one that can talk.

I’m used to a husband who comes home and tells me about his day and the discussion that occurs as a result of our experiences.  It just isn’t the same when I’m the only one that can talk.

For Aaron’s case, they were asked to be at the Maricopa Superior Courthouse, Monday thru Thursday from 10-4:30.  The courthouse is in downtown Phoenix, which means at minimum a one hour drive, plus another 30 minutes for the shuttle and security requirements.

For all this, he got paid a measly $12/day plus mileage.  There is a court fund that can be tapped, based on inability to perform your current job.  They have some pretty extensive hoops to jump through in order to qualify and we are still waiting to hear back on our claim even though at this point the case is over.

There is a court fund that can be tapped, based on inability to perform your current job.  They have some pretty extensive hoops to jump through in order to qualify and we are still waiting to hear back on our claim even though at this point the case is over.

The case was a very violent murder from almost three years ago and occurred as a result of a gang initiation.  The concept of murdering someone to join a gang is such a foreign concept to me.  The man who was murdered definitely wasn’t clean himself, but no one deserves to die the way this man did.  Everyone involved was a meth head including virtually all of the witnesses.  The prosecutor told Aaron later that there is always a strong correlation between gangs and drugs and you rarely see one without the other in court.  Arizona recently started a major initiative to prosecute

Everyone involved was a meth head including virtually all of the witnesses.  The prosecutor told Aaron later that there is always a strong correlation between gangs and drugs and you rarely see one without the other in court.  Arizona recently started a major initiative to prosecute

Arizona recently started a major initiative to prosecute gang-related violence and after hearing the details I hope they are successful.

I did an internet search last night (when he finally told me details) and wasn’t able to find any information regarding the case on the news.  I don’t know why but am left to assume it is because it was gang violence with a bunch of druggies, so it isn’t sensational enough to draw attention like the Jodi Arias trial.

I can’t help but wonder if gang violence would decrease if we as normal citizen knew more about what happens in our own back yard.  I follow the news and don’t remember ever hearing about this case.

During the course of the case, the jury listened to a variety of expert witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense.  Prior to their testimonies, each expert stated their credentials and also their current rates.  Based on their experience levels they were paid anywhere between $250-600/hour for chart review, deposition and trial time.

In this particular case, both the prosecution and the defense called multiple experts all of whom were paid by us, the tax payers, since this is a public defense case.  I don’t know how many were called, but Aaron said there were way too many and that all they did was contradict each other.

I’d love to know how much money was spent on expert witnesses for this case.

I have a unique perspective on this since my boss, John Shufeldt is an doctor, lawyer and MBA.  John has been an expert witness in medical malpractice cases for years.

Over the years, I’ve seen some horrific med mal cases in which the doctor was grossly negligent.  I’ve also seen the opposite where the doctor did the best he could, but because of a negative outcome beyond their control, is being sued by grieving family.

Either instance is horrible for all parties involved.  I know there is a place for expert witness testimony and believe it is a vital part of the judicial process.  However, I do feel that limiting the amount of experts being called is something that needs serious review in our judicial system.

Aaron estimated that the case went an additional 2-3 days as a result of the multiple expert witnesses saying the same thing as the guy before them.

Once both sides rested the jury deliberated 1 ½ hours before giving the defendant the death penalty – they had already declared him guilty about a month before.  They were instructed to each state what their preference would be and why and then make their final decision.

I know it was a difficult decision for all of them and am very glad I wasn’t in their shoes.

Aaron was very introspective last night.  He had just helped sentence a man to death and that is something that he took very seriously.  Yes, it was a very horrific murder, yes, they had multiple witnesses, yes, they had a letter written while he was in jail admitting to the murder and yes, his brother who was involved had turned state evidence against him.

But still, even with all of the evidence, Aaron really struggled with the decision and knows that it is a decision he will remember for the rest of his life.

Once they were finished the jurors were able to meet the victim’s family and speak with them.  Aaron spoke with the father, who was very appreciative to the jurors for their service.  He explained that his son got involved with Meth and was never able to pull himself out.  He was a good person who made some bad decisions that ultimately lead to his murder.

He knew the verdict wouldn’t bring back his son, but felt like justice has finally been served.

The last couple of months have been very hard on our family.  Aaron wasn’t able to work full time, but worked as many hours as possible and had an unreal schedule.  He was leaving the house around five each morning and getting home after seven (often later) daily.  He worked most weekends and was just exhausted all the time.  I honestly don’t know how he managed everything.

Although issuing the death penalty was not something he wanted to do, the thanks of the victim’s family made the sacrifices worthwhile.

I hope I’m never in the position of the victim’s family, but if I am, I hope that people like my husband and the other jurors on this case are willing to step forward.

We all groan and complain when we see the jury summon, but our judicial system is what makes this country so unique and great.   So next time you see a jury summon, think of the victims (and this may include the defendant) before you make your excuses on why you can’t be a juror.

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