Inside jury deliberations in a rape case

24 11 2006

This article from the Lincoln Journal Star is an interesting look inside the jury deliberations process of a rape case.

Jurors saw witnesses differently

Among the 12 jurors who deadlocked last week in the rape trial of Pamir Safi, Milt Foreman belonged to the minority who favored acquittal.

Yet Foreman expressed relief when he learned the Lancaster County Attorney’s office had decided to retry the case.

“I prayed they’d try this guy again,” Foreman, 48, said in an interview on Thursday. “Not guilty didn’t mean we didn’t think he did it. ‘Not guilty’ says the state didn’t prove its case.”

Foreman was among five Lancaster County District Court jurors who, after 1½ days of often intense deliberation, decided to acquit Safi.

Seven jurors — including five of the seven women on the panel — were in favor of a guilty verdict.

The seemingly unbridgable gulf prompted District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront to declare a mistrial Monday.

Safi, 33, on active status in the U.S. Army Reserve, could be retried as early as next year.

Five of the jurors, including one who favored a guilty verdict, offered a rare glimpse inside the “black box,” as some in the legal profession have called the secretive deliberation process.

For many of the jurors, the case turned on the credibility of Safi and of the woman he stood accused of assaulting, former University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Tory Bowen. Both testified, and neither — according to most of the jurors — was completely believable.

Even more important, the jurors said, was Safi’s past.

Bowen’s allegation marked the third time since 2001 a woman has claimed she was sexually assaulted by Safi. Neither of the previous cases resulted in a conviction, but both of those women were permitted to testify for the state at Safi’s trial.

“That particular evidence was why we were deadlocked,” said jury forewoman Cheryl Larson, who favored acquittal.

Safi’s trial began Oct. 23 and concluded Monday morning with Cheuvront’s declaration of mistrial.

The charge stemmed from events that began at Brothers, a downtown Lincoln bar, on Oct. 30, 2004. Accompanied by friends, Bowen, then 21, went to the bar for a costume contest dressed as the Jessica Rabbit character from the movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

At some point that evening, she and Safi crossed paths. It was the first time they met. The two shared drinks and eventually, according to trial testimony, kisses inside the bar.

After Brothers closed at 1 a.m., Bowen, who had had about four vodka and Red Bull drinks, left with Safi. She told investigators later that she next remembered waking up after several hours to find an unknown man, later identified as Safi, having sexual intercourse with her. Bowen said she told Safi to stop, and he did. He took her home later that morning.

Bowen and a friend then drove to BryanLGH Medical Center East, and Bowen told staff there she had been sexually assaulted. The hospital reported her claim to Lincoln police, and, with directions provided by Bowen, they located Safi’s apartment, and Safi, that evening.

Safi did not deny to investigators that he had sex with Bowen, but he said it was consensual. Prosecutors nevertheless charged him with first-degree sexual assault, punishable by as many as 50 years in prison.

The trial included testimony from police, medical professionals, including the nurse who examined Bowen at the hospital, Safi, friends of Bowen, and Bowen herself, who took the witness stand for some 12 grueling hours.

Also testifying were the two women who claimed to have been assaulted earlier by Safi: one inside a barracks at Fort Riley, Kan., where Safi was stationed in 2001; the other at a Kansas City motel in early 2004.

In his instructions to jurors, Cheuvront said the verdict should be determined partly by whether they believed Safi had sex with Bowen when he knew, or should have known, she was incapable of giving consent because of a “severe abnormality such as severe intoxication.”

The judge also said they could consider evidence from the Fort Riley and Kansas City incidents, but only to help them decide if Safi had a “plan” to sexually assault a woman Oct. 30, 2004.

Safi’s attorneys, Clarence Mock and Adam Sipple of the law firm, Johnson and Mock, had argued at a pre-trial hearing against inclusion of the potentially prejudicial incidents at trial.

The woman in the Kansas City case reported the incident to police several weeks after the fact, and prosecutors there declined to file charges.

A military court dismissed the Fort Riley case, Mock said in an interview last week.

But in a January written order allowing prosecutors to use the earlier cases, Cheuvront noted common threads running through all three: Each involved women who had consumed excessive amounts of alcohol and went to sleep clothed, but awoke undressed to find Safi having sex with them.

Thus, the judge wrote, the prior incidents were admissible, but only “to show Safi’s plan to have sexual relations with a person who was incapable of resisting or appraising the nature of her conduct.”

In other words, defense attorneys said later, jurors were not to use the incidents to make judgements about Safi’s character or as evidence of his guilt in Bowen’s case.

The subtle distinction was all but ignored by some members of the panel, according to jurors interviewed last week.

“They were saying, ‘What are the odds? It happened before,’” said Chuck Morrison, 38, who favored acquittal. “It was, ‘One, two, three strikes, you’re out.’”

Lindsay Pickering, 20, and the youngest member of the panel, heard similar comments.

“One said, ‘If he did it before, he’ll do it again,’” she said. “I think some of them went in (the jury room) thinking he was guilty.”

She said she grew frustrated with one juror in particular who, according to Pickering, was misusing the evidence from the Kansas City and Fort Riley incidents.

“I was saying you can’t use this for this purpose,” she said. “… I stopped talking. Seriously, I couldn’t believe how some of the jurors were acting.”

Juror Judy Quade-Anderson said she followed Cheuvront’s instructions about the earlier incidents.

“I believe he (Safi) had a plan to assault those women and he had a plan to assault Tory,” said Quade-Anderson, who was one of the seven who believed Safi was guilty.

“There’s a pattern,” she said. “He’s always going after younger girls, always with alcohol. … This guy needs to be taken off the streets.”

Safi on the witness stand, she said, was simply unbelievable.

“He was too deliberate in his answers, too rehearsed,” she said.

On the other hand, Quade-Anderson found Bowen’s testimony to be highly credible. “I really think Tory was telling the truth.”

Several jurors disagreed.

“Both sides had holes in their stories that were amazingly huge,” Foreman said.

Morrison agreed, and he was blunt in his assessment of some of Bowen’s testimony. “I guess if you’re truly a victim, you don’t need to lie to make your point.”

He and the other jurors who wanted to acquit Safi were troubled in particular by three portions of Bowen’s testimony.

One was what she told the hospital nurse after the assault about when in the morning it occurred.

The nurse testified Bowen said Safi first had sex with her around 2 a.m. But how could Bowen know this, some of the jurors wondered, if, as she claimed, she had no memories from the time she left the bar until she awoke around 7:15 a.m.?

“The nurse testified Tory said it was 2 o’clock in the morning,” Foreman said. “She had her brain on enough that she knew the time.”

Safi testified he and Bowen had sex shortly after they arrived at his apartment and then fell asleep. When he awoke sometime after 7 a.m., he said, he began to have sex with her again, but she stopped him.

Also troublesome to jurors was Bowen’s claim that, fearing for her safety, she left the apartment five to 10 minutes after she awoke.

But evidence presented by Mock, including cell phone records, strongly supported the defense’s claim that Bowen and Safi laid awake together in bed for about an hour before he took her home.

Said Foreman: “That was something that stuck with me the whole time. As you added up the time, what she said (didn’t ring true).”

Finally, Bowen testified she told Safi to drop her off at 48th and A streets — several blocks from her home — because she didn’t want him to know where she lived.

On cross examination, she said Safi took her to her home. For Larson and the other jurors, the discrepancy damaged her credibility.

Quade-Anderson thought otherwise. “I didn’t have any problems with that,” she said.

Bowen, who lives in Washington, D.C., said in an interview that she told Safi to drive to 48th and A streets. From there, she said, she gave him specific directions. She denied having said she told him to drop her off blocks from her residence.

“That’s ridiculous,” she said. “My first instinct was getting home alive. I wanted to go home.”

Bowen also maintained she left Safi’s apartment as soon as she could.

In his closing statements, Mock wondered aloud why Bowen, who claimed to be afraid of Safi, got in his vehicle the following morning rather than seeking help by knocking on apartment doors in the building.

“He’s thinking like an assailant, not a victim,” Bowen said. “What if I knocked on a door and nobody was there? What if Pamir Safi saw me?”

Safi, through Mock, declined comment. Because of Bowen’s allegations, Mock said, he has had to put on hold orders for duty in Iraq.

Bowen, director of development for the College Republican National Committee, said she look forward to the second trial.

“I’m as determined as ever,” she said. “He’s (Safi) not going to stop.”

Foreman hopes a second trial results in a guilty verdict.

“Why do I think he’s guilty? I think he knew he had a drunk chick with him,” Foreman said.

But throughout the trial, Mock questioned Bowen’s level of intoxication the night of Oct. 30.

Two friends, including Taylor Hahn, who described herself as Bowen’s closest friend, testified that Bowen did not appear overly intoxicated.

“If Taylor Hahn, who’d know if (Bowen) was drunk, said she was OK, how would Safi know?” Mock asked. “… This case was riddled with reasonable doubt.”

Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon, one of two prosecutors in the case, declined comment last week.

Juror Morrison said he was far from convinced Safi was guilty.

Some of the state’s witnesses, including Bowen’s friends who testified about her mental state, actually aided the defense, he said.

“Those were their witnesses?” Morrison said. “… I can’t say I think he was guilty. (But) it’ll be interesting to see how (prosecutors) try the case again.”

Reach Clarence Mabin at cmabin@journalstar.com or 473-7234.


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21 06 2007
There is No Such Word as Rape at Shakesville

[...] Dahlia Lithwick notes: Safi’s first trial resulted in a hung jury last November when jurors deadlocked 7-5. Responding to Cheuvront’s initial language ban—which will be in force again when Safi is [...]

25 06 2007
More Proof the USE is better than RAPE « Baptists For Brownback 2008

[...] first trial resulted in a hung jury last November when jurors deadlocked 7-5. Responding to Cheuvront’s initial language ban—which will be in force again when Safi is [...]

8 09 2007
Don't Use The "R" Word - World Affairs Board

[...] For many of the jurors, the case turned on the credibility of Safi and of the woman he stood accused of assaulting, former University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Tory Bowen. Both testified, and neither — according to most of the jurors — was completely believable. Even more important, the jurors said, was Safi’s past. Bowen’s allegation marked the third time since 2001 a woman has claimed she was sexually assaulted by Safi. Neither of the previous cases resulted in a conviction, but both of those women were permitted to testify for the state at Safi’s trial. Put a little spin on the whole thing… However, note that she says she only consumed four drinks and there seems to be no talk of drugs. This second report is worth reading. JournalStar.com – Lincoln, Nebraska – News – Local Inside jury deliberations in a rape case UBUNTU! [...]

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