Juror Harriedell Jones's last-minute "misgivings" about the guilt of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry caused the mysterious moment in court last Tuesday in which the jury first said it had a verdict on one of the cocaine possession counts against the mayor, then refused to say what it was, two jurors said.
The confusion came after the jury had voted unanimously to convict Barry of the count that he possessed cocaine in November 1989 at the Mayflower Hotel, and after it had sent U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson a note saying it was ready to announce the verdict, the two jurors said.
As the jury waited to be led into the courtroom to announce the verdict, Jones, an accounting assistant with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told foreman Edward P. Eagles that she was having "misgivings" and wanted to take back her vote, according to a fellow juror, Hilson Snow Jr.
The other juror, who gave a similar account and declined to be identified, said Jones hadn't declared what her final vote would be, and that the confusion came from Jones's attempts to give Eagles some sort of signal in court about her decision.
The juror who asked for anonymity said that Jones stated she was changing her vote because she feared that one of the jurors was going against a consensus to find Barry not guilty of another possession charge.
The juror said Jones withdrew her guilty vote on the Mayflower possession count after a juror asked to see a videotape of Barry at a meeting with fire officials on Sept. 7, 1988. According to the juror who asked for anonymity, Jones considered the request to see the tape an indication that the mayor was not certain of acquittal on the charge alleging Barry bought crack in a city building that morning.
Jones declined to comment on the assertion that her vote change caused the awkward moment in court Tuesday.
Snow said the assertion that Jones changed her vote after another juror asked to see the tape was "a lie." Snow didn't say why Jones switched her vote. He also defended Jones's switch. "That's her right," Snow said. "It was up to her."
He also criticized foreman Eagles, a history teacher at St. Albans School for Boys, for the way he spoke to Jones in the jury room. "He started lecturing her," Snow said. "I thought it was in a hostile manner."
Eagles was unavailable for comment last night.
Snow, a United Parcel Service employee, also said that during deliberations some jurors expressed opinions about Barry's "arrogance," but that others cut them off, saying that shouldn't be an issue in the trial.
In contrast to the picture drawn from earlier post-verdict interviews that suggested the jurors were one happy family, interviews with jurors yesterday suggested that there was considerable tension inside the jury room and fierce disagreement about the case.
Friday, Barry was convicted of the possession charge on which the jury had declined to announce its verdict three days before. That count involved his using cocaine with Doris Crenshaw, a friend from his civil rights days, at the Mayflower.
Barry was acquitted of the charge that brought testimony about his attendance at the fire department meeting. That count alleged that he bought crack from drug dealer Lydia Reid Pearson on the 1989 morning in question at the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center. The mayor presented an alibi defense, saying he was not there that morning but at a supermarket opening, and later at the fire department meeting.
Jones's vote change -- which she later changed again to guilty -- came last Tuesday, about 45 minutes after Eagles had sent out a note saying the jury had a verdict.
As Barry and the lawyers were rushing to the courthouse, the jury moved on to another subject, the Pearson count, said the juror who wanted to remain anonymous.
Although the jury appeared to be unanimous for acquittal on that count, one of the jurors wanted to ask Jackson to see a videotape of the fire department meeting. That tape had not been introduced into evidence, but had been mentioned in court.
Jones was displeased by the request, and told Eagles that she no longer agreed with the guilty verdict on the Crenshaw count, according to the juror who wanted to remain anonymous. That juror said Jones made the remark just as Deputy U.S. Marshal Al Crew knocked on the jury room door to summon the jurors into the courtroom.
Hurriedly, Eagles asked Jones as she filed past whether she had changed her vote, and she told him she would give him a signal from her seat in the jury box, the juror said.
When the judge asked Eagles whether the jury had reached a verdict, Eagles had seen no signal, said the juror who insisted on anonymity. Eagles hesitated, and twice asked Jackson to poll the jurors before he would announce the verdict. The judge said he would not poll them without hearing the verdict first, then asked again whether they had a verdict.
Finally, Snow piped up, "Not at this time."
Juror Johnnie Mae Hardeman said that the incident was "kind of embarrassing."
Snow suggested that after Jones stated she was having second thoughts, Eagles should have informed the judge that the jury no longer had a verdict. Snow added that Eagles behaved "very improperly" by asking Jackson to poll jurors.
In her interview, Jones said she was deeply touched by Barry's speech on Saturday, in which he asked for forgiveness from the city.
"I cried through the whole speech, and prayed that what he said he meant," Jones said last night, returning from a church picnic to her house in the Michigan Park neighborhood of Northeast. "I pray that he will get his life together."
Jones said she is "very pleased" with the trial's outcome -- besides the one conviction and one acquittal, there was a hung jury and mistrial on 12 counts. "It was pretty rough. We endured."
She said of Barry's service as mayor: "The job is too much. He's had enough of that." Jones said that Barry should not run again for mayor, and that she is undecided on whether she would vote for him if he seeks an at-large D.C. Council seat.
Another juror, Valerie Jackson-Warren, said that she has voted for Barry in the past and would vote for him again.
Jackson-Warren, a D.C. corrections department secretary, said that Barry is "remorseful" about his drug use. "I don't see where Washington, D.C., suffered. Marion Barry is the only one who suffered." Staff writers Eugene L. Meyer and Stephanie Griffith contributed to this report.