On the first day of their deliberations, jurors in the Terrence G. Johnson trial quickly "smothered" any talk of "police discrimination against black," and thereafter dealt only with the facts of that specific case, one juror asserted yesterday.
One comment was made regarding police discrimination against blacks on that first day, the juror said, but "it never went very far. We curtailed it. The police were not on trial."
In the aftermath of the jurors' verdict Saturday, the Prince George's County prosecutor charged that the police department, not the defendant, became the issue when jurors retired to decide what criminal responsibility Johnson, 16, would bear for the fatal shooting of two policemen.
After 18 1/2 hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted Johnson of murder charges and found him guilty of two lesser offenses in the death of one officer. The verdict brought quick and angry denouncements from State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall and the police.
One junior said yesterday that it now seems "the jury is on trial. It is a heartbreaking affair.
"You are picked as a jury member to leave your biases and prejudices behind you. We had a very hard job to do, and we did it fairly." The juror added that the police never were placed on trial in the jury room.
Yesterday, when told of the jurors' comments, police union leader Laney Hester repeated his earlier statement that "those jurors will have blood on their hands the rest of their lives."
Police Chief John W. Rhoads said last night that "if in fact" one juror had raised the question of police discrimination against blacks, "then that juror could only have gotten his information from the news media. His belief that the Prince George's County police are brutal is simply not true."
Marshall said that if the jurors even briefly discussed police discrimination, "It was on their minds, and it should not have been on their minds."
But the first juror who spoke yesterday said that such feelings "were put aside. We never got into any racial attitudes. No one felt that way."
When it appeared after 17 1/2 hours of deliberation that the jury was deadlocked, concern for the families of the slain officers - Albert M. Claggett IV and James Brian Swart - became over-riding, the juror said.
"We felt a responsibility to come to a conclusion so the families would not have to go through any more," the juror said. "If it means compromise, it means compromise," this juror recalled thinking in the jury room. "We had to come to something."
Just before a note proclaiming a deadlock was written to Judge Jacob S. Levin, the jurors were in turmoil trying to decide what responsibility Johnson should bear for the death of Claggett, two jurors have reported.
After they returned their verdict Saturday morning, all jurors contacted refused to discuss their deliberations, saying they had agreed with each other not to do so. On Monday, however, one juror gave a brief description of the last hours in the jury room, and yesterday one other juror provided a more detailed account of their discussions.
During an emotional, two-hour interview yesterday, one juror said that several jurors were seeking a conviction on voluntary manslaughter at that time. One juror was holding out for a murder conviction, and several others sought acquittal, believing Johnson had acted in self-defense.
These jurors said that they would not be swayed from their viewpoints, and the deadlock note was written, the juror stated.
At that point, several jurors were crying, but "miraculously," by the next morning, the jurors who opposed the manslaughter conviction "came around," this juror stated.
Later, after the verdicts had been announced, one of those jurors commented that Johnson "had killed two police officers and had to be held reponsible," according to the juror interviewed yesterday."
The decision on the charges in the death of Swart, who was killed after Claggett, though reached through lengthy discussion, had come more easily, this juror said.
The juror said that testimony by a defense psychiatrist that Johnson was temporarily insane when he shot Swart had "meant little" to the jurors.
Instead, each juror tried to place himself in Johnson's situation after he had killed Claggett, and believed it "was possible" that anybody could have "gone crazy" at that point and fired wildly at the second officer.
"Johnson is the only one who really knows, of course," the juror said. "And one hopes to God that he feels remorse."
A Prince George's police spokesman said yesterday that since the verdict was returned, several hundred persons, some from out of state, have called to express their support for the county police department and to express their sympathy for the dead officers' families.