Non-Racial Gray Areas in Black White’s Conviction

In the movie 12 Angry Men, the jurors deliberating a murder case eventually decide to acquit the defendant because of one juror’s obstinate belief – and persuasive reasoning – that the prosecution had not presented sufficient proof of guilt.

The jury members who heard the trial of John H. White, a 54-year-old Long Island, New York, man, struggled for more than four days before reaching a unanimous guilty verdict, according to reports from the New York Times. But some, including White’s criminal defense attorneys, have reason to believe the verdict might not stand on appeal.

Mr. White’s criminal case has several points of interest, including its racial overtones: in August of 2006, a group of white teenagers reportedly gathered outside the Whites’ house in the middle of the night, shouting racial slurs at White’s son Aaron (who was 19 at the time) and inciting him to go outside and fight.

White, who is black, allegedly felt as if a lynch mob were gathered on his front lawn. In what defense lawyers called an effort to protect his family and home, White shot Daniel Cicciaro, a 17-year-old among the crowd.

The boy died and White was charged with second degree manslaughter. His December trial spanned more than three weeks and launched the jury into deliberations that lasted more than four days. At 8:45 pm on December 22, the jurors handed in their verdict: guilty.

But, according to sources, that verdict might have been influenced by more than just the evidence presented.

Reports indicate that the trial judge had assured jurors at the beginning of the case that they would only have to participate in trial-related activities during regular business hours. But, when they were deadlocked at the end of the day on Friday the 21st, the judge informed them they’d have to return the next morning.

Then, when no consensus was reached after 11 hours of deliberation on Saturday the 22nd, the judge said they’d be back Sunday. And, in the next 45 minutes, the jury had agreed.

Apparently, two key jurors were the reason for the lengthy debates: Donna Marshak and Francois Larche both remained unconvinced of White’s guilt. So why did they vote to convict?

According to reports of Mrs. Marshak’s reaction to the trial, she felt pressured by other jurors to reach a decision before the holidays began – many had travel plans and family gatherings looming. Other jurors, too, allegedly agree that there was a sense of urgency during deliberations – it seems nobody wanted to miss out on holiday cheer.

Now that White is set to be sentenced on February 21, the two holdout jurors have reportedly expressed regret that they agreed to hand in a guilty verdict.

White’s criminal defense lawyers plan to question these jurors during the appeals process, sources report.