A juror in the trial of a former juvenile prison principal acquitted of sexually abusing inmates said Tuesday that a former police officer on the jury helped sway many who initially believed the ex-administrator was guilty.
Nancy Gray told The Associated Press that the officer "did a lot of talking" about reasonable doubt to the eight who believed John Paul Hernandez was guilty when deliberations started.It's funny how police officers can be such sticklers for "reasonable doubt" when somebody with a badge is accused as opposed to all the cases of Texas DNA exonerees whose alibi witnesses were ignored and obvious doubt was cast aside in deference to a convict-at-any-cost mentality. I didn't sit through the testimony and have no concrete basis for second guessing the outcome, but this juror's comments make me wonder if the result could have been different if the jurors had all been average citizens and an ex-cop (with all the anti-prisoner biases that potentially entails) hadn't dominated the deliberations. Sometimes such cases are won or lost at the jury selection phase, and that may well be what happened here.
"A lot of people changed their minds because he kept saying, pressing the point, that he had to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," said Gray, who was the last to agree to the not guilty verdicts. "I was the holdout, all the way through. It was hard. That's why it was very emotional for me."
Hernandez, 45, was accused of sexually abusing five inmates at the West Texas State School in Pyote in 2004 and 2005. He was found not guilty on 14 counts in 11 indictments, including sexual assault, and had faced up to 20 years in prison.
Attempts to reach the former police officer were unsuccessful Tuesday. Several other jurors did not immediately return phone messages.
Gray said jurors "absolutely" would have thought differently had there been physical evidence. Prosecutors presented no DNA, no fingerprints and no hair samples to back up the former inmates' stories, though the jury believed each man had testified truthfully about having been abused by Hernandez.
Gray said deliberations grew testy at times and she unloaded her sentiments on the other jurors.
She said she told them: "'You know this bastard is guilty' and I was bawling. These boys are going to live with this the rest of their lives. Maybe they've done some bad things, but they didn't deserve what happened to them."