Man Freed In Jury Mistake Killed Hours Later; Suspect Arrested

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Jurors returned a guilty verdict against Pearson’s co-defendant, Terrel Minnieweather and the mistaken not-guilty verdict against Pearson before lunch Wednesday.

Terrence said Hamlin polled each juror individually to verify Minnieweather’s guilty verdict. Turning to Pearson’s case, the judge asked the jurors as a group if that was its not-guilty verdict in Pearson’s case.

“No one stood up and said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. That’s not my verdict,’” Terrence said. “They nodded along.”

Terrence said that it wasn’t a mistake to poll the jury as a group. The evidence against Pearson wasn’t as strong, and Terrence said he respected the jury’s apparent not-guilty decision.

The jurors were then asked to return after lunch for a potential second phase of the trial. The confusion over the verdict came to light during lunch, when one juror told court staff that he had voted to find Pearson guilty.

Jurors said they were confused by the forms, one of which was for a guilty verdict and the other for a not guilty verdict. One juror said there was no form they could sign to indicate a deadlock.

“It is bizarre,” said Eugene Hyman, who retired from the Santa Clara County Superior Court after serving for 20 years on the bench. “But I can’t find fault with anyone.”

Hyman, who had no involvement in Pearson’s case, said during trials, he would ask each juror whether the verdict read by the clerk was indeed their verdict. He said there’s nothing wrong with polling jurors en masse.

Hyman said the judge had no choice but to acquit Pearson if Hamlin ordered the not guilty verdict “recorded” immediately after the jurors nodded in agreement with the verdict.

Judges are required to poll jurors after every verdict is read in criminal cases, Hyman said.

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(Photo Source: AP)

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