QUINCY HAD TWO high-profile murder trials in the past few weeks. Both defendants were found guilty. One jury took less than 90 minutes. The jury yesterday in the Gavin Masters murder trial took more than five hours.
I covered about half of each trial for
the Quincy Journal. I would have predicted the jury times the other way
around. But you can never tell what a jury will do, because they are
made up of human beings. Jurors are supposed to check all prejudice and
judge the case solely on the evidence .... but that doesn't always
The Steson Crider murder trial dragged on for
nearly two weeks. There was a lot of evidence and a lot of testimony
from "profoundly imperfect people," as State's Attorney Jon Barnard put
it. But the jury took a relatively short amount of time to find Crider
guilty. I think jurors were tired and basically figured it out quickly.
The victim was a completely innocent 12 year old boy waiting for a ride
home and sitting on a front porch. I think the jury got it right.
Masters trial took only four days. Again, there was testimony from
rather challenged people, if you want to put it politely. The man shot
to death was fleeing from a house after stealing a bag of weed, and
defense attorneys Drew and Casey Schnack were brilliant. Their job is to
throw up smoke and make the jury consider all kinds of possibilities,
to muddy the waters. Nobody is better at it than Drew - if I ever got
into trouble, he'd be among the first people I'd call.
have not talked to anybody who served on either jury. But I suspect
there were one or two jurors last night who were hung up on some issues
and who were seriously considering a not guilty verdict. All 12 have to
agree and it only takes one juror to halt the whole thing - I saw it
happen in several major trials during my years at the Whig, including
one case involving a man accused of beating an infant child. One juror
refused to budge. The verdict came back not guilty. Many of the jurors
were crying when the not guilty verdict was read, because they knew they
got it wrong. But that's our system, flawed as it is.
have a feeling attorneys, investigators and Judge Robert Adrian, who
presided over both trials, will appreciate a few days off and time to
reflect, and maybe to sleep.
There's always another big trial looming, and another jury to pick.