Surprise, surprise: jurors who were inclined to vote to convict the Islamic charity of funding Hamas terror were intimidated into changing their votes. Watch for CAIR to issue a statement decrying this miscarriage of justice!
Seriously, this shows just how high the stakes are for the HLF and those implicated along with it — and whoever arranged this juror bullying is well aware of those stakes.
“Exclusive IPT Investigation Uncovers HLF Jury Room Bullying,” by Michael Fechter for IPT News Service (thanks to B.):
DALLAS — She felt the men were guilty and tried to explain why to the 11 other jurors. When she finished, one juror spoke up in an angry tone.
“If you’re going by the evidence in this room,” she recalls him snapping, “then you need to go home.”
The terrorism-support trial of five Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) officials, which began July 24, already had been stressful for 49-year-old Kristina Williams. She had lost her job two weeks into it. Now during deliberations, she felt bullied and intimidated virtually every time she voiced an opinion.
“When I’d get off the jury I’d come home every night and basically cry because I felt like every time I spoke I would get knocked down, criticized, one way or the other for something pertaining to the way I voted,” Williams said in an exclusive interview.
While several jurors favored acquittals, just one out of the 12 did most of the knocking down. In fact, interviews with three HLF jurors – speaking publicly for the first time – suggest that juror William Neal’s stridency may have changed the trial’s outcome. Neal even claimed credit for steering jurors away from convictions in a recent radio interview. Until now, he has been the sole source for public perception of the deliberations and the government’s case.
The three jurors interviewed by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) showed the Neal-created perception as skewed. All three jurors say they disagree with his views of the evidence and the prosecution’s case. To them, it seems clear that Neal made up his mind going into the jury room and refused to consider any argument in favor of guilt. He preferred to read the court’s instructions rather than look at exhibits in evidence, they said. And his often snide manner intimidated and bullied those who disagreed with him.
The effect this had on the case is clear. When a juror walked out in frustration after just four days of deliberations, it followed a confrontation with Neal. When another juror briefly refused to cast a vote, it was after a confrontation with Neal. Williams broke down several times during the 19 days jurors spent locked in debate. Each incident followed what she felt was an attack by Neal.
Williams describes a factionalized jury room, with those favoring guilty verdicts trying to explain their reasoning only to have those favoring acquittals shoot them down. Many times, jurors could not agree whether evidence was useful to them. Williams pointed to some that she thought was. When she did, she said Neal snapped back: “Go back to sleep, you’re not important.”
Another time, Williams and other jurors thought it would help to view photographs copied onto a videotape in evidence to see who had attended a pivotal meeting on scuttling Middle East peace hopes. Neal argued it was a waste of time and talked the group out of it.
That’s because videotapes sometimes covered hours, Neal said, and jurors had no way to pinpoint the 30-second segment they were shown during the trial.
A second juror corroborates Williams’ account. That juror spoke to the IPT only on the condition that the juror’s name is not used. The juror didn’t care if the defendants knew it. Neal, however, was someone the juror did not want to deal with again.
A third juror, Sylvester Holmes, also spoke publicly for the first time in an IPT interview. He and his two colleagues agreed that their arguments for conviction were dismissed out of hand. Sometimes they were told “that’s not evidence.” Other times, the argument didn’t meet Neal’s interpretation of the court’s instructions. Or, he simply repeated arguments offered by defense attorneys.
The three jurors interviewed were far from agreement on the verdicts. Holmes believed in guilt on all counts. Williams could not convict on charges involving some specific transactions but felt all five defendants were guilty of conspiracy to support Hamas. The unnamed juror who spoke with IPT was convinced only HLF executive director Shukri Abu Baker and Chairman Ghassan Elashi were guilty of conspiracy. But all three say that Neal bullied and intimidated those who disagreed with him, stifling true discussion of the case.
“He took control of that jury room,” Holmes said. “You just look at the case. The jury room was a mess.”
There is much more. Read it all.