Bates trial juror talks to 2 Works For You

Posted at 7:49 PM, Apr 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-29 20:52:13-04

After sitting on the jury of the Robert Bates trial, he said he only wants to be known as juror 21. He doesn't want to be identified but understands anyone wanting to know how it all played out. 

TIMELINE: Robert Bates case from time Eric Harris was killed through trial, how we got here

Juror 21 was picked out of a pool of 65 potential jurors to hear the case. 

After the prosecution and defense delivered their closing arguments on Wednesday around 2:45 p.m. the 12 jurors who sat through the trial started deliberating. Minutes later they held their first vote. 

RELATED: Day 1: Trial for ex-reserve deputy who fatally shot unarmed man, Robert Bates, begins  | MORE on TCSO investigation | Bates Trial: Day 2, jury selection continues  | Bates Trial: Day 3, jury seated; trial to begin  | Bates Trial: Day 4, witness testimony starts |  Bates Trial: Day 5, witnesses cont. testimony  | Bates Trial: Day 7, defense rests case

"I believe right off the bat we were, I want to say 11 and one. 11 guilty," the juror said. 

He said the one juror that didn't vote guilty right away said he was convinced Bates was guilty, but wanted to talk through some of the evidence more with the rest of the jury. 

Juror 21 said during the trial he went back and forth on guilty or not guilty. In the end it was two of the state's witnesses that helped him believe a bullet from Robert Bates' gun killed Eric Harris. That went against part of Bates' defense, that a heart attack killed Harris. 

"Doctor Kumar and Doctor Niblo, I believe it was the medical examiner," he recalled. "It is kind of hard to argue with the people that had Eric Harris' body parts in their hands and said how he died." 

Kumar testified as a rebuttal witness after the defense rested during the trial. She said Harris died from significant blood loss and a bullet wound. Niblo testified and pointed to her medical examiner report, which showed the same cause of death.

After three hours the jury reached a verdict, but then determining an appropriate sentence is where the jury struggled juror 21 said. 

"I think a lot of sympathy was being played in there," he said. "We had to keep having to reiterate that you can't use sympathy in this and they had told us that sympathy can't play a part in this at all just because he is 74."

Eventually the jury decided to suggest a sentence of four-years in prison, the maximum sentence for second degree manslaughter.

When the jury's foreman handed the verdict to the judge in front of a packed courtroom, juror 21 avoided eye contact with anyone.

"I just looked down. I couldn't look anywhere."

He strongly believes the jury reached the right verdict. But with Bates heading to prison and Eric Harris dead, he said there is no happy ending.

"I was feeling a little guilty seeing him taken away, but then also it was relieving to see Andre Harris on the news and hearing how they got justice."

"We got the criminal behind bars, that is a victory from the city," Eric's brother Andre Harris said following the verdict. 

Immediately after the judge read the guilty verdict, Bates' attorney Clark Brewster took aim at the media for coverage of the case and trial.

"One factor you never factor in is the amount of negative press that can lead into a case like this," Brewster said on Wednesday. "It was tremendous. We recognized that is what made the case tough."

"I saw him say that," juror 21 said. "That's really the only excuse I guess to make him feel better about it."

He said before the trial he didn't really follow the shooting in the news and that continued during the trial. As the jury was picked at the beginning of the trial, Judge Bill Musseman told them they shouldn't bring opinions into the trial.

Instead they were told to let the testimony of witnesses and the evidence presented determine the verdict. Juror 21 said they entire jury took the judge's orders very seriously.

Now he finds himself thinking about the eight days he spent in the courtroom and doesn't believe it will end anytime soon.

"It will stick with me I want to say the rest of my life."

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