Jurors who convicted William (Bull) Evans-Smith of second-degree murder Friday said yesterday that their first vote earlier in the week was 8 to 4 in favor of finding the American University official guilty of strangling his wife of 43 years at their Loudoun County farm.
But after they re-examined the testimony of more than 90 witnesses and the 100 pieces of evidence, they were at 11 to 1, according to a juror. Then, on Friday morning, just before Judge Carleton Penn called the jury back to the circuit courtroom in Leesburg to urge it to reach a verdict, "it became unanimous," the juror said.
The juror, who asked that his name not be used, said a key to their decision was testimony that blood matching Evans-Smith's was found on his wife's robe. A forensic scientist testified that only seven out of every 10,000 people have such a blood type.
"We felt that he was definitely guilty," the juror said. "We took it very seriously because we had a man's life in our hands."
The four-woman and eight-man jury found Evans-Smith guilty of second-degree murder at 4:35 p.m., after almost 30 hours of deliberations. The judge had let them go home about 5 p.m. every day.
They recommended that Evans-Smith, 65, director of American University's Foreign Area Studies program, be sentenced to five years in prison, the minimum under Virginia law.
Mary Gossage, a juror who lives in Sterling, said the decision of second-degree murder over first-degree was unanimous. "Nobody thought he deliberately planned that murder.
"Here you have a man with a good reputation, up in years," Gossage said of the retired Army colonel, citing his activities in the community and 26 years' service in the military. "We all just felt that five years was enough."
Commonwealth's Attorney William Burch maintained that Evans-Smith strangled his 64-year-old wife Barbara with a pair of pantyhose in their kitchen on April 15, dragged her body upstairs to her bedroom and attempted to make it appear that she had been raped and that the house had been burglarized.
The prosecutor said Evans-Smith, frustrated over work and the breakup of an 11-year affair with a coworker, made everything appear to be staged. "And it did look staged," the anonymous juror said of the murder scene at the couple's Crooked Run Farm, off state Rte. 725 near Hamilton.
The juror also cited as crucial a witness' testimony that there was only one set of tire tracks in the driveway at the farm the morning of April 15. Evans-Smith testified that he had driven down his driveway and back again to retrieve his newspaper before leaving for work, which would have left three sets of tracks.
Gossage said she became upset when she heard attorneys speculating to the media that the decision was a "compromise verdict. I just said, 'No that's not true.' "
Juror Rita Care acknowledged that the 8-to-4 split was "very early on." But she, too, said, "The word compromise was never used." Care said it took a long time to examine all the evidence.
Blair D. Howard and David H. Moyes, attorneys for Evans-Smith, maintain that their client is innocent and say they intend to appeal. If sentenced to five years, Evans-Smith, who was allowed to remain free on $100,000 property bond, would be eligible for parole after serving about 12 months.
Anita Gottlieb, director of university relations at AU, said yesterday that a decision has not yet been made about Evans-Smith's position there. A decision is likely in the next week, she said.
Evans-Smith has been on leave from his job, which was described by Gottlieb as directing a research office that publishes definitive books on foreign countries, under contract to the federal government. Judge Penn has not set a sentencing date.