On the final day of deliberation in the four-month bribery and conspiracy trial of former D.C. official David E. Rivers and businessman John B. Clyburn, one juror decided she wanted to hear each of the 300 tapes submitted by the prosecution -- just to make sure that the defendants were not about to get away with a crime.
Virtually from the beginning, the lone juror had been adamant in her belief that Rivers and Clyburn were guilty. But when the other jurors asked for evidence supporting her views, Louise Stevenson, a 54-year-old thrift store cashier, would only fold her arms and declare, "That's just the way I feel."
When told that feelings were not facts, Stevenson began rambling through the exhibits in search of clues.
"It was very frustrating," said juror Meghan Sadler, 26, an insurance broker. "We argued, screamed and cried."
For those who have served on a jury, it probably comes as no surprise that deliberations do not always go smoothly. But for those who subscribe to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's view that the Rivers-Clyburn verdict showed a "sophisticated" black Washington protecting minority enterprise from overzealous white prosecutors, the internal working of the jury was a real eye opener.
First of all, the three white people on the jury, including foreman Thomas C. McLean, 44, a program analyst with the U.S. Labor Department, were among those arguing from the beginning for the acquittal of Rivers and Clyburn.
Stevenson is black, as are several others who initially held the most serious doubts about the innocence of the defendants.
As for juror sophistication, it did not always shine through.
For instance, when the jury prepared to send a note to U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green, saying that a verdict had been reached on Rivers but not Clyburn, Stevenson began arguing that the jury should complete the entire case before telling anybody anything.
"They made us sit in this box for 17 weeks," she said. "We should make them wait for two more."
"I blew my top," said juror Terri Lynn Johnson, 37, a medical secretary, who had been sequestered from her 28-month-old child since July 5. Jury foreman McLean immediately called for a recess to cool tempers, and wondered aloud if some of the jurors had become "brain dead."
Here was a case that had generated more than 1,000 pieces of evidence and included, according to Clyburn's lawyer, Thomas R. Dyson, up to 50 FBI agents, six assistant U.S. attorneys and wiretaps on Clyburn's home and office telephones. But, as Georgetown University law professor Silas Wasserstrom noted, when you find out what jurors spend most of their time thinking about -- if you find out -- it's almost always discouraging.
On Stevenson's mind soon after deliberations began was her health. "How can you be clear-headed and cooped up in some hotel room without fresh air?" she wondered. "I cried because my back was hurting so bad."
But that's not what made her think the defendants were guilty, she said. As a thrift store cashier, she frequently heard stories about how badly the D.C. Department of Human Resources, which Rivers had headed, treated poor people.
"I just felt it was so unfair for them to be wasting so much money on their friends while the people who really needed help were suffering so," she said.
Nevertheless, Rivers had not been charged with unfairness. Indeed, said Sadler, "I thought he came across as a rather devoted public servant."
Near the end, as it appeared that Stevenson might hang the jury, McLean began pleading against a "jury failure," especially after the government had spent four years bringing Rivers and Clyburn to trial.
So, during a subsequent recess, one juror pulled Stevenson aside, and with a pencil and paper in hand, began drawing a diagram of the trial.
"It was a picture of who said what to whom," Johnson recalled. "The idea was to show Louise that there was more than one way of looking at the evidence -- and that's what constituted a reasonable doubt in our minds."
"After they showed me, I got the picture," Stevenson said. "But I was prepared to stay here until Christmas if I had to."
When the final vote was taken after nearly 40 hours of deliberations, the jurors had agreed to acquit. Justice had been done, but it had not been pretty.
As professor Wasserstrom recalled, there are two things that it is good that the public does not see made: sausage and legislation. To that list, he said, add jury verdicts.