Within the drama of Thursday’s acquittal of one suspect and the hung jury on alleged gunman Dwayne Moore in the quadruple murders in Mattapan, a legal minidrama spilled from the jury room at Suffolk Superior Court to the judge’s bench- one that is equal parts unusual and, to many, infuriating.
The jury was deadlocked, 11-1, on nine counts, and the tone of its notes to the judge left little doubt that the majority favored conviction. Moore was accused of killing four people- including a 2-year-old boy - and paralyzing another in a drug-related robbery on a quiet side street two Septembers ago.
The jury had been at an impasse for days, at least since Monday afternoon, when the jury foreman sent a note to the judge saying the panel had reached verdicts on 10 of the 19 charges against the two defendants, had reached an impasse on the other nine, and did not see a way to break it.
On Tuesday morning, Judge Christine McEvoy urged the jury forward. She told them “absolute certainty’’ was not needed or expected. The foreman, in a second note Tuesday, said one juror “is not understanding reasonable doubt,’’ and the jury got fresh instructions.
Sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday, the case took another bizarre twist. Another note arrived in the judge’s hands from the jury room, this one from a rank-and-file juror, not the foreman. Typically, only the foreman communicates on behalf of the panel.
The juror was summoned to the bench Thursday morning for what is known as a sidebar conversation, visible to the victims’ and defendants’ family members, friends, reporters, and officials who filled the courtroom, but outside of hearing range.
That juror, a woman, said to the judge that a lone juror had told her earlier in the trial she planned to be a “holdout’’ or “hold-up,’’ said a person briefed on Thursday’s proceedings.
The juror at the sidebar specifically told the judge that the lone holdout had declared her intentions before deliberations began, the point at issue. Jurors are expected to keep an open mind throughout the testimony and are repeatedly instructed not to discuss the case among themselves until deliberations. Had she walked into the jury room at the start of deliberations, declared her opinion, and refused to be swayed, it would have been her right.
The juror also told the judge she wasn’t aware that anyone else on the jury heard the holdout’s remarks, said the person briefed.
After that conversation ended, the judge sent for the juror in question, the presumed holdout. She appeared at a separate sidebar conversation.
According to the person briefed on the matter, she was asked whether she told a fellow juror before deliberations began that she planned to be a holdout. She responded, “I don’t think I said that.’’
The judge questioned her about whether she had the ability to heed the jury instructions regarding reasonable doubt and absolute certainty. She responded, said the person briefed, “I think I can, to the best of my ability.’’
McEvoy felt she could not, or should not, dismiss a juror who did not acknowledge making a potentially disqualifying remark heard by only one other juror. Likewise, the holdout told the judge she understood the jury instructions and could heed them. The bar for disqualifying a juror is considered very high.
McEvoy then declared a hung jury, a mistrial, on the nine charges in question. The jury filed into the room and verdicts of “not guilty’’ were read on all charges against Edward Washington, the accused getaway driver, and the least serious charge against Moore.
Prosecutors quickly declared they will try Moore again, and with that, a dark chapter of Boston will play out over many more pages.