Juror balks at guilty verdict in two homicides

April 22, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

The verdict was in on Anthony Sylvester Fair: Guilty on two counts of murder. Then the clerk polled the jury, and the East Baltimore teen-ager wasn't so guilty -- at least for a while.

The unusual turn of events yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court began after the first nine jurors who were polled said that they agreed with the guilty verdict. Fair's mother sobbed.

The clerk then turned to Juror No. 10 and asked the usually perfunctory question: "You have heard the verdict of your forelady -- is your verdict the same as hers?"

"No," said the juror.

Lawyers, sheriff's deputies and spectators did double takes and later agreed such a turn had rarely been seen outside of the movies or television. The jurors, who had been deliberating for more than 13 hours over two days, were sent back to continue their discussions.

Fair's mother, Regina Fair, pumped her fist in the air. Later, she explained she was sending a message to her son: "You stand a chance. Somebody's on your side."

Five minutes later Juror No. 10 sent out a note reading: "I feel that he is not guilty based upon the evidence presented. I am adamant and will not change my mind no matter how much time we deliberate on this matter. This is firm."

Less than an hour later, the jury said it had again reached a verdict. This time, Juror No. 10 affirmed the guilty verdicts.

Fair, now 17 but 15 at the time of the slaying, was found guilty as an adult of second-degree murder in the death of Rodney L. Ross, 17, and of first-degree murder in death of William J. Fortune, 38.

The bodies of the two victims were found Jan. 24, 1993, in the basement of a drug "stash house" in the 1100 block of N. Carrollton Ave. in West Baltimore. Both had been shot in the head.

Prosecution witnesses involved in the same drug ring as Fair said he shot the two.

Juror No. 10, whose name was not released, had announced at the start of deliberations that she had made up her mind that the youth was innocent and "nothing anybody can say or do can ever change my mind," another juror said last night.

That juror, who spoke on condition she not be named, said that after resuming deliberations after the aborted verdict, jurors read or played cards, insisting that Juror No. 10 signal when a verdict had been reached.

"She went into the restroom, had a cigarette, came out and pushed the buzzer and said she was ready," the juror said.

After the verdicts were announced, a sheriff's deputy escorted the juror from the courthouse.

She wiped tears away and said the deliberations were difficult for her "because you're taking someone's life and restricting it."

Asked whether the other jurors were angry with her, she said, "That's an understatement."

When asked why she had initially refused to go along with the guilty verdict, she said, "My personal opinion is that he was not guilty based strictly upon the evidence and the witnesses that were presented."

She was then asked why she went along with the guilty verdict in the end.

"You're sitting in a room full of 11 people voting one way, and they're putting a lot of pressure to persuade you," said the 25-year-old legal assistant. "I tried to see it from their angle."

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