Paul Leon Jordan was found guilty of first-degree murder yesterday in the fatal stabbings of a 3-year-old girl and her baby sitter after a month-long trial that centered on his dramatic videotaped confession to slayings that the prosecution had called "inexcusable."
Jordan, eyes downcast and face expressionless, hardly moved a muscle as the jury foreman, whose own hands were shaking, pronounced him guilty of murder and armed robbery in the slayings Jan. 24 of Crystin Fletcher, the daughter of two District police officers, and her 56-year-old baby sitter, Cora Barnes.
The jury had deliberated 15 hours over three days in the case that had produced some of the most emotional moments, hard-fought courtroom battles and unusual legal twists in recent memory at D.C. Superior Court. The defense has maintained throughout that Jordan, a 48-year-old alcoholic from Northwest Washington, confessed to a crime that he did not commit.
After the verdict yesterday, one juror said that the jury of five women and seven men had started deliberations "split 6 to 6 . . . right down the middle, but it finally deteriorated into guilty." The juror said that the panel had taken more than two votes, but refused to provide further details, explaining that the jurors had agreed not to discuss their deliberations.
The case had presented difficult issues, and even the deliberations were marked by the uncommon.
Yesterday, about three hours before reaching a verdict, the jury sent a written question to Judge Eugene Hamilton that Hamilton termed "very unusual."
"I've never had a question asked like that by any juror in any case," the judge said from the bench.
The note -- marked "personal inquiry," signed by a juror and undersigned by the foreman -- asked if a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder is "final" in the event that further evidence is found, a third party subsequently confesses or "simply if we are making a mistake." Would Jordan's case be "automatically reopened," or is "the law optional," it asked.
Hamilton wrote back that the jury must reach a verdict based on the evidence presented in trial and whether the government has proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The jury also found Jordan guilty of armed robbery for taking jewelry from Barnes' home after the slayings. The jury acquitted him on charges of taking indecent liberties with a minor child and sodomy with a minor child.
During the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy S. Berman had focused on the videotaped confession that showed a trembling Jordan telling homicide detectives that he "started cutting" on Barnes, and then stabbed the child because she "saw what was what, so I had to take care of it, too."
Berman also introduced testimony that Jordan had confessed verbally to killing the child and Barnes, his neighbor, during a quarrel that started when the child interrupted his and Barnes' lovemaking.
However, defense attorney James H. McComas had maintained that Jordan, in an advanced state of alcohol withdrawal the day he was arrested, falsely confessed after "eight hours of interrogation, lies, false promises, tricks and psychological coercion." McComas and cocounsel Penny Marshall, in essence, put police and their tactics on trial in the courtroom.
Officer Cortez Fletcher, Crystin's father, had maintained a vigil at the courthouse and appeared shaken after the verdict. He said, "I have known he was guilty all the time."
Alease Brooks, Barnes' sister, said, "He [Jordan] couldn't do anything worse to anybody than what he did . . . . The worst punishment anybody could get, he should get."
First-degree murder convictions carry a penalty of 20 years to life, with a mandatory 20 years in prison before a defendant is eligible for parole. Sentencing was set for Jan. 28.
A juror said that all of them "were quite drained. It was a very tiring case, very emotional. You could see it, feel it in the courtroom."