The jurors concluded that there was no solid evidence that Stennett was the man with the gun on Wilkens Avenue - certainly not after Dorsey got finished on the witness stand.

And the four officers who had chased the Bronco were driving an unmarked cruiser. Might Stennett have been running for his life, fearful that the men in the car behind him were drug dealers out to kill him?

"I don't think a police officer pulled up and flashed his lights to pull him over," says Moore. "The way I saw it, he may not have had a chance to stop."

Miller, the white juror who originally voted for a murder conviction, now simply says: "To me, he might have been scared."

Secondly, there was ample evidence that Officer Gavin might have contributed to the crash. By pulling his patrol car in front of the speeding Bronco, he left Stennett very little room for error.

Then, too, there was the autopsy report.

Introduced as evidence in court, it was little discussed during the trial. But it contained at least two facts that the jury decided were vital on the question of whether Officer Gavin might have played a role in his own death.

Not only was the officer an asthmatic, but he also had been suffering from pneumonia. And he had alcohol in his bloodstream - nearly half the level to be considered legally drunk under Maryland law.

A medical examiner testified that the body produces alcohol as it decomposes. But jurors speculated that the alcohol in Gavin's system might just as readily have come from medication.

"Maybe he wasn't alert," Hawkes says. "To me, he shouldn't have been at work, between the asthma and the pneumonia. ... We figured he couldn't have been feeling too well."

Finally, many of the jurors felt that the crash never would have occurred if police had not been chasing the Bronco.

"He was partly responsible for the officer's death because he was speeding," Hawkes says of Stennett. "But I also feel the officers chasing him share some responsibility. They should have backed off. ... They were speeding, too."

In the final hour leading to their verdict, the jury became preoccupied with such questions and ultimately returned to the evidence itself - the inconsistent testimony, the botched reports, the disappearing police cruiser, the mishandled gun and shell casings, the lost scarf.

And one by one, the holdouts collapsed as the evidence against Stennett led them from first-degree murder, to murder two, to manslaughter to something much less.

"A lot of things were not right," the Hispanic juror recalls. "Some cops did their job. Some of them did wrong. ... Every one of them did things they were not supposed to do.

"We were trying so hard [to convict]. We couldn't find any proof or reason to do it."

And so it was that early on that Friday afternoon, the jury came back with "not guilty" verdicts on all charges - exonerating Stennett of any responsibility for the death of Officer Kevon Malik Gavin and acquitting him of attempted murder in the Wilkens Avenue shooting, of using a handgun to commit a felony and of wearing a bulletproof vest during the commission of a crime.

Officer Gavin's widow fled the courtroom in tears.

Eric Stennett's mother leaped from her seat, sobbing, "Oh, yes, yes!"

Impassive as ever, the defendant sat next to his lawyer with his legs sprawled before him, expressionless. At the other end of the table, Pettit stood with his mouth open as the jury filed out of the courtroom, a stunned expression etched on his face.