CourtArtistSketch

The Problem with Juries

In the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial, many people wonder how the jury could possibly have chosen to acquit the defendant.  As a law student, I want to believe in the jury system as a fair way to make decisions, but the truth is, the system is flawed, and the problem is bigger than any one trial.

Tyra’s case is a prime example of this.  In retrospect, it is clear that the outcome of her trial was a mistake.  Tyra should never have been convicted of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, and she should not have received the harsh sentence that she did.  But the jurors in her case could only work with the information they had, and unfortunately, that information was incomplete and faulty.

For instance:

Jurors were never told that Tyra called 911 to get help for the victim.  While that 911 call had been recorded, Tyra’s attorneys never introduced it at trial.

Jurors never got to hear from Tyra herself about what happened.  Even though Tyra wanted to testify, her lawyers convinced her not to take the stand in her own defense.

Jurors were never told about false confessions.  The jurors did hear that Tyra had confessed to taking a necklace from the scene of the crime, but no one told them about the conditions of her long interrogation, in which the detective pressured her to admit to something she didn’t do, and suggested that she would be able to go home if she confessed.  An expert on false confessions who researched the case said that Tyra’s interrogation was “tailor-made for producing a false confession.”  Yet Tyra’s attorneys did not present any evidence, or introduce any expert witnesses, who could explain this to the jury.

The jurors in Tyra’s case probably did the best they could with the limited information they had.  But the guilty verdict has weighed heavily on their hearts and minds, and when told about the missing evidence, many of them would make a different decision now:

  • “We convicted her without a full picture of all of the facts.”
  • “After all of these years I’m still troubled by our verdict.”
  • “If I had heard the 911 call at trial, I would not have voted to convict her.”

Unfortunately, the jurors cannot go back in time and re-do their decision, this time with all of the facts.  It is up to the Parole Board, and Governor Kasich, to look at the full picture, the missing pieces that the jurors never saw, and let Tyra go home.

Please share Tyra’s story with your friends, families, and communities.  We need to send a strong message to the governor that he must correct this injustice and free Tyra Patterson.

Please consider signing the petition at www.change.org/justicefortyra