Washington Wizards point guard Rod Strickland was found not guilty yesterday in D.C. Superior Court of charges of driving under the influence and reckless driving.
After deliberating for five hours, a jury of five men and seven women returned the verdict on the DUI charge about 5 p.m. As the forewoman announced the verdict, Strickland showed little reaction, sitting with his hand under his chin.
After the jury verdict, D.C. Superior Court Judge William Jackson said he found Strickland not guilty of the reckless driving charge.
Outside the courtroom, several of the jurors shook Strickland's hand and asked for his autograph, which he gave them.
"I was very happy, obviously," he said of the verdict. "I was waiting until my time to come to court. . . . I was very confident that this would happen."
Strickland's attorney, Michael Statham, said, "The government's case was lacking in evidence that [Strickland] had had enough to drink to effectively lessen his ability to perform behind the wheel."
D.C. Assistant Corporation Counsel Anthony Gagliardi, the prosecutor in the case, declined to comment.
D.C. police officers arrested Strickland at about 4 a.m. on April 24 at 16th Street and Manchester Lane NW. During the trial, two officers testified that Strickland was speeding, ran three stoplights and smelled of alcohol when he was stopped. A third officer, Morani Hines, testified that Strickland failed a sobriety test because he didn't follow instructions or complete the test. He also said Strickland declined to take a Breathalyzer test.
But two men who had been with Strickland prior to his arrest testified that they did not believe Strickland was intoxicated. One man testified that Strickland drank two Corona beers while they were together. Strickland did not testify.
Several jurors interviewed said the prosecution's case lacked sufficient evidence to convict Strickland and pointed out that the way the sobriety test was given to Strickland was troubling.
"The police didn't have any evidence," juror Lois Graves said. "You can't fail the [sobriety] test for not following instructions when you don't give him instructions. The police were not on their job. They told him to hold his foot up, but didn't tell him for how long."
Juror Warren Youmans said five minutes after the jurors began deliberations, they voted 11-1 to find Strickland not guilty. He said they spent the next five hours persuading the lone juror, whom he did not identify, that Strickland was not guilty.
Several jurors said that they thought Strickland had been singled out because he is a celebrity basketball player, a notion that his attorney raised during his opening and closing arguments.
Outside the courthouse, Strickland was asked by reporters if he thought he had been singled out because of who he is. "I think it happens a lot," Strickland said. "And not just with me. I'm glad this is the verdict because it lets people know that if you're a celebrity or a personality or so-called personality, it doesn't give the cops the right to get extra adrenaline and put handcuffs on you."
Asked if he thought the police officers were overzealous, Strickland said, "Possibly."
Strickland, who has missed practice the past two days to attend the trial, said he was pleased to have the case behind him. The Wizards open the regular season on Tuesday against Atlanta.
"For Rod's sake, we're glad this is behind him," Wizards General Manager Wes Unseld said. "All I care about now is for Rod to get back and get ready to open the season. It's time to move forward."
Staff writer Steve Wyche contributed to this report.