If the six alternate jurors in the trial of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry had been asked to render the final verdict, their deliberations might well have ended in a hung jury.
Four of the six women released from duty yesterday after U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's final instructions offered clashing assessments of the Vista tape, the credibility of key witnesses, trial tactics and other aspects of the case.
Their views are not necessarily a hint of what the 12 actual jurors will decide because the alternates will not have the benefit of a jury's collective discussion. Nor were they able to review the more than 5,000 pages of testimony in the trial.
Moreover, they seemed to be still sorting out their feelings, with the same alternate sometimes offering comments that bolstered both the prosecution and defense.
But in interviews at their homes last night, the four women -- two black, two white -- struck many of the emotional chords that opposing lawyers had sought to pluck during the eight weeks of testimony. The other two alternates declined to comment about the case.
Only one of the six women suggested how she would have voted. Constance King, 46, a black psychiatric nursing assistant at St. Elizabeths Hospital, said she probably would have acquitted Barry of the three perjury counts he faces and the cocaine possession charge that arose out of the government's sting operation at the Vista Hotel.
King said Barry's lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, "did a very good job with what he was working with." When asked to assess the prosecution's case, she laughed and said, "Do I have to answer that?"
She said she "just didn't believe" Charles Lewis, a former D.C. government employee who was the key to the perjury charges that stemmed from the Ramada Inn episode in December 1988. Barry was accused of lying to a grand jury when he denied that he knew anything about Lewis's involvement with drugs, that he gave Lewis drugs or that he received drugs from Lewis.
"I didn't trust him or his stories," King said of Lewis. "I thought he was just lying, that's all." She indicated that, by testifying for the government, Lewis was trying to save himself, a charge Mundy made about many witnesses who had cooperated with the government. Lewis still faces sentencing in the U.S. Virgin Islands on an unrelated drug charge.
"Like Mr. Mundy said -- self-preservation," King said.
King also seemed to accept all of Mundy's arguments about the Jan. 18 sting at the Vista Hotel. Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore, a former Barry girlfriend who provided the crack cocaine that he smoked in her room at the Vista, went too far in her encouragements, King said.
"She was giving him drinks and he was saying he was ready to go and she would change the subject. It was just terrible," King said. She also said she was offended that FBI agents, who were clandestinely filming the operation, allowed Barry to smoke a dangerous drug "not once, but twice and then they showed Rasheeda asking him if he wanted to smoke a third time."
Asked how she would have voted on the nine other possession counts and the single count of conspiracy, King said, "I'm glad I don't have to make that decision."
But Margaret V. Batson, 70, a white retired railroad employee from Northwest Washington, said of the Vista incident, "If the sting was slippy-slidy, then so was the mayor . . . . We all have our downfall and that was his.
"The most devastating was to see the mayor of the city being stripped of all his character, of his dignity," she said, referring to the videotape, which she said was the single most important point of the trial.
While acknowledging that there may have been "racial tones" to the case, Batson said she did not accept the defense allegation that the government had been seeking to prosecute him because Barry is black. And she said that Mundy's admission during his closing argument that Barry had been an occasional cocaine user "would have a bearing on the deliberations."
"I almost fell right out of my seat," Batson said of the admission.
Batson also said the fact that Barry did not take the witness stand in his own defense will have a "serious bearing" on the jury's verdict.
But Sheila Kern, 40, a white employee of Motorola who lives in Northwest Washington, seemed favorably impressed by Mundy's last-minute admission about Barry, saying "that gave some credibility."
"I think it would be frankly incredible to completely disavow the focus of all the testimony about such experiences," Kern said.
But Kern said she had come to no verdict. "I didn't find a compelling bit of evidence one way or another . . . . I think it's going to be difficult to decide," she said.
Asked about the Vista videotape, Kern said, "I thought it would be better quality," but she declined to render a judgment on the ethics of such a sting. But she added she didn't "personally feel that the government was on trial," a comment that suggests she would not have accepted an entrapment defense.
Kern said she did not think that race would be a factor as the 10 blacks and two whites of the jury deliberate but that "there may be a mixed verdict." She found Lewis and Moore "credible sometimes," and she said that the most damaging moment of the trial for Barry was "all the testimony" supporting the government's case.
The fourth alternate interviewed last night, Carolyn M. Bass, had been slated to be a final juror but was replaced with Patricia V. Chaires at the last minute after both prosecution and defense lawyers became concerned about non-verbal clues they said she had given during the trial, including some facial expressions. None of the 18 people selected to hear the case knew whether they were jurors or alternates until yesterday; that was known only to Jackson and the lawyers.
Assessing the testimony, Bass, 49, a black retired crossing guard from Northeast, gave conflicting hints about how she would have voted. She said she had been eager to be a juror because she happened to be present when Barry opened a new Safeway store in Northeast Washington, an event that became pivotal in the debate over one of the cocaine possession charges against him.
The government alleged that Barry received three bags of cocaine from Lydia Reid Pearson shortly after 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, 1988, but defense witnesses suggested Barry was at the Safeway opening at the time. Bass said she would have told her fellow jurors she saw Barry there.
But Bass also seemed swayed toward the government's position by the Vista videotape, saying that without it, no one would have believed witnesses who alleged they had used cocaine with Barry.
"The whole sting operation was beautiful," Bass said. "They did what they had to do."
Two of the alternates, Anne D. Freeman, 28, a white Northwest Washington resident, and Doris H. Whitehead, 48, a black Northwest resident, declined to comment.
Staff writers Linda Wheeler, Keith Harriston, Karlyn Barker, Nancy Lewis, Patrice Gaines-Carter and Ruben Castaneda contributed to this report.