POINTS TO CONSIDER IN ‘HASTY’ HALL VERDICT … JUDGE’s ‘DYNAMITE CHARGE’ SAVES THE DAY FOR D.A. CAPELESS’ SHAKY PROSECUTION OF HALL …
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, FEB. 10, 2014) — Could Adam Lee Hall have been innocent?
A jury of his peers, so called, pronounced Hall guilty of 15 counts, including murder, and acquitted him of four counts. That’s point #1: The jury found him not guilt on more than 20% of the changes.
Point #2: The jury deliberated for four days, unable to reach a decision.
Point #3: In desperation more than anything else, the jury report to the judge on Friday morning that they were hopelessly deadlocked. The judge, not wanting to take a mistrial, sent the jurors back into deliberations.
Point #4: The deliberations ended in less than one hour. At least one juror “got religion.”
Point #5: Because we do not know the nature of this “conversion,” we cannot place great confidence that the jury got it right in its decision to find for the prosecution on the substantive counts. Was this a “foxhole conversion?” Was it a case of 11 jurors wanting to get back to their lives finally browbeating a “Henry Fonda” holdout (see 12 Angry Men) into submission? If so, how can we say that justice was served?
Point #6: The evidence introduced against Hall was almost exclusively circumstantial.
THE PLANET is not arguing Hall’s innocence. Moreover, we do not contend the results of the trial. We only point out, having experience both as a jury foreman, a reporter, and a defendant that there are many questions raised that have not been answered about the way the Hall verdict came down. If there is even the slightest chance that an innocent man was wrongly convicted, it has to be exhausted. An appeal will be that chance.
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The most notable aspect of the guilty finding in the Hall trial is not the verdict itself. It’s the manner in which the jury reached its ultimate decision.
After deliberating for three days, the jury came back to the judge to report it had been unable to reach a verdict. A “hung jury” results in a mistrial. What happens after that is up to the prosecution. If it decides to re-try the case, which it can without placing the accused in double jeopardy, the proceedings start from scratch. It can also decide not to pursue further charges. THE PLANET has learned that Hall’s attorneys will file an appeal.
Nolo.com, a online legal resource, defines a “hung jury” as one “unable to come to a final decision, resulting in a mistrial. Judges do their best to avoid hung juries, typically sending juries back into deliberations with an assurance (sometimes known as a “dynamite charge”) that they will be able to reach a decision if they try harder. If a mistrial is declared, the case is tried again unless the parties settle the case (in a civil case) or the prosecution dismisses the charges or offers a plea bargain (in a criminal case).
Judges and prosecutors hate mistrial. For the judge, the no-finding finding defeats the very purpose of the trial, which is to render a verdict based on the evidence. For the prosecution, it spells failure to make its case. Based on the actions of the jury in the Hall case, District Attorney David Capeless came this close to a mistrial, that is, to botching the case. Only Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder‘s instruction sending the jury back to deliberations saved Capeless from a major defeat. That’s why defense attorneys prefer juries with more jurors rather than fewer. Since it only takes a lone vote to hang a jury, they reason that they have a better chance finding one out of 12 as opposed to one out of six.
We can only go by the actions. After the jury got the judge’s instructions to keep at the evidence, what happened? They panel of nine women and three men were able to reach consensus in a relative blink of a bloodshot eye. Barely one hour later, jurors filed into the courtroom with their guilty pronouncements. This would suggest a small number of holdouts, if indeed the number was plural — two at most, most likely one.
At least one person in that room had “reasonable doubt.” What happened inside the jury room. Did someone cave in under pressure or duress? What did that person learn in less than two hours that he or she hadn’t realize in several days? Jurors began deliberating in the case on Monday of last week. They remained deadlocked From Tuesday through to Friday. The one-hour miracle in the jury room changed all that.
If one separates oneself from the emotions of the case, there’s reason to pause. Did a witness succumb to pressure and violate his or her conscience? Why? What made the difference? THE PLANET does not quibble here, not when an accused person faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.
The panel found Hall guilty on 15 of the 19 charges. This included guilty verdicts on three counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and intimidation of a witness.
The judge’s “dynamite charge” seems to be the only thing that stood in the way of Hall’s freedom and Capeless’ failure. Capeless had presented evidence that was circumstantial. He relied on the testimony of another man charged as an accessory to the triple murder, that is, a man who had motivation to help himself with testimony. Alan Black, Hall’s attorney, argued that the prosecution introduced no DNA evidence and no forensic evidence that could directly link Hall to the murders. He also told jurors that police found no murder weapons and that no one could even say where the murders took place.
The respective performances — prosecution vs. defense — left at least one juror with reasonable doubt.
Hall will be sentenced in Hampden Superior Court on Monday. Up next will be Hall’s appeal, as well as trials for David Chalue, 46, of North Adams, and Caius Veivois, 32, of Pittsfield. Both men were charged along with Hall in the killings of David Glasser, Edward Frampton, and Robert Chadwell.
“His hearth the earth,—his hall the azure dome; / Where his clear spirit leads him, there’s his road / By God’s own light illumined and foreshadowed.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Woodnotes.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.