A few words from one of the jurors who voted the Rumpled Academic guilty on some counts, but who was, of course, outvoted. “‘I Can Sleep At Night,’ Juror Says,” from the Tampa Tribune, with thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist:
TAMPA – Juror 211 is one of the reasons that the fate of Sami Al-Arian remains unsettled after a trial lasting half a year.
As one of two holdouts favoring conviction for the former University of South Florida professor, she said she’s glad federal prosecutors may get a second chance to bring terror-support charges against Al-Arian.
“After six months, I didn’t like it left hanging like this,” she said in an interview last week. “I wanted it left with a definite result.”
Deliberations lasted 13 days and were tense at times, said juror 211, known as “Char” to her friends. She wasn’t ready to talk about the case in the days that followed. But she did keep track of news reports and Internet postings about the case – and felt frustrated all over again.
She responded to TBO.com, the Internet affiliate of The Tampa Tribune, after several readers posted criticisms of the case and its outcome.
“I was one of the jurors that voted Sami Al-Arian and Hatem Fariz guilty on several counts,” she said in a Dec. 14 post. “I can sleep at night knowing I saw all of the evidence and my votes were based upon that evidence.
“Other jurors did not agree but that is their right.”
She said she respects the 10 jurors who wanted to acquit on all charges. She said she simply saw the evidence differently.
Char did vote to acquit Al-Arian on eight counts, including conspiracy to murder and maim people abroad. And she agreed to acquit co-defendants Ghassan Ballut and Sameeh Hammoudeh of all charges.
But she would not budge from her belief that Al-Arian and co-defendant Hatim Fariz were guilty of conspiracies to commit racketeering and to provide material support to terrorists.
The result was a hung jury on those charges. The Justice Department hasn’t indicated whether it will seek a new trial. Defense attorneys want U.S. District Judge James Moody to acquit Al-Arian and Fariz on the remaining charges based on evidence at the first trial.
The Department of Homeland Security also could initiate deportation proceedings against Al-Arian if the criminal case dies….
They all went over the evidence during deliberations, she said. In her discussions, she emphasized the bylaws of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the terrorist group Al-Arian was accused of helping to finance and run. They call for “a state of terror, instability and panic in the souls of Zionists and especially the group of settlers, and force them to leave their houses.”
The bylaws were found on a computer during a 1995 raid at a think-tank Al-Arian founded. Researchers who studied the Islamic Jihad had not been aware of such a document until it was discovered in Tampa. Other jurors seemed to think the document was found on the Internet, available for anyone to read, Char said.
In addition to armed attacks, the bylaws envisioned a series of committees for things such as a governing board, financial management, charity and education. Those were roles Char concluded Al-Arian helped serve.
Jurors who favored acquittal have said the flow of money documented during the trial went to the Islamic Jihad’s charitable arm rather than to anything violent.
“I saw the [Islamic Jihad] as a complete unit,” Char said, “not as a charitable side or a military side.”
Sparring Behind Closed Doors
She said her voice was often drowned out by the shouts of another juror when she tried to explain her position. After a while, the argument devolved into people simply repeating points they had already made.
Only one other juror agreed with her by the time deliberations ended Dec. 6. The other juror told Moody she felt “whipped into submission” by those favoring acquittal.
“It was very difficult at times in the deliberation area,” she said. “It was hard. We would state the way we felt and vote the way we felt and continually we were asked, ‘Where do you come up with this?’ We would go over our points and other people couldn’t see that. It was frustrating. I’m glad there is a chance they can still do something.”
Like other jurors, she agreed Al-Arian was an Islamic Jihad member and a part of its governing board called the Shura Council. But other jurors thought that wasn’t enough to show he was more than just a member of the group, a requirement for conviction.
In the end, she respected the views of those who disagreed with her.
“Initially, I was upset because people didn’t see what I saw. Then again, we all come from different directions.”