At the outset, they agreed to take a preliminary vote, moving around the table from one juror to the next, to get a sense of where they stood.

"Guilty," said one. "Guilty of murder."

At least two other jurors agreed.

John M. Miller Jr., a 25-year-old dishwasher, was among them.

"I was outnumbered," he recalls. "Most jurors felt he was innocent [of murder]. ... Most of them thought the police screwed up."

Miller, the lone white juror, was among the tenuous minority who thought Stennett might have intentionally rammed Gavin's cruiser. He was also among the few willing to overlook the breaches of procedure by police.

"I thought they were doing their best because they were thinking of the officer who died," he says. "They had that on their mind. I think they tried their best. I thought he must be guilty."

In this, Miller reflects the views of most white Americans.

Repeated opinion polls since 1994 by the Gallup Organization of Princeton, N.J., involving thousands of respondents, have consistently found that nearly 60 percent of whites express confidence in police, compared with less than 40 percent of racial minorities.

This wide disparity, combined with recent high-profile reports of alleged police perjury and evidence-planting, would prompt Baltimore Circuit Judge Audrey Carrion to order in January a grand jury investigation into police conduct.

But Miller echoed other members of the Stennett jury in saying that none of the other jurors pressured him or raised their voices in disagreement. Rather, deliberations were conducted with equanimity.

Nonetheless, at the end of their preliminary vote, it was clear that the majority was convinced that Stennett did not intentionally kill Officer Gavin.

"With the evidence they showed us, murder wasn't there, no way," says the 43-year-old postal clerk. "A lot of the evidence was in conflict. The police reports were a mess."

Moore, the bus driver, recalls that all the best evidence pointed to the crash having been an accident.

"We couldn't find where he had premeditated or pre-planned it," she says.

And the original reports filed by Sergeant Wimmer and Lieutenant Eilerman provided compelling proof against second-degree murder as well.

Both officers had written that Stennett might have lost control of the speeding Bronco just before the crash. And that left "reasonable doubt" as to whether he could have "aimed" the truck at Gavin's cruiser with the intention of killing him.

Hawkes, who consulted her notes repeatedly during deliberations, was less charitable.

"Too many problems, too many inconsistencies, ... too many holes," she says. "They wanted to get him [for murder] because an officer was killed."

After some four hours of discussion, with a solid majority firmly in place and no readily apparent middle ground for a compromise verdict, the jurors asked permission to go home for the night.