Jury seemed hopelessly split, but doubts vanished overnight
By By Ryan Davis
Feb 18, 2005 at 3:00 AM
Juror No. 5 retired to his Northeast Baltimore home Wednesday evening, certain that defrocked priest Maurice Blackwell would never be found guilty of sexually abusing a former parish choirboy. He and the 11 other jurors had argued, sometimes heatedly, for five hours and appeared hopelessly split.
The juror returned 9 a.m. yesterday to the courthouse and discovered the dissension had disappeared.
After a short discussion, a hand vote revealed a unanimous decision - guilty on three counts, not guilty on the fourth.
"People had slept on it," said Anthony C. Long, juror No. 5. "They had thought about it."
The 36-year-old who works on golf carts and dabbles in the music industry said he can't think of any other reason for the sudden unanimity.
During an interview last night at his home, Long recalled some of the reasoning supplied by the six men and six woman, all ages 31 to 53, as they worked their way from being a hung jury to a unanimous group ready to send an ex-priest to jail.
Long said he remembers jurors mentioning the stoic look on Blackwell's face, Blackwell's failure to ever look at the jury, the corroboration of victim Dontee Stokes' testimony by detectives and psychiatrists, and - more than any other fact - Stokes' shooting of Blackwell in 2002.
"You just don't shoot an individual for nothing," Long said, "especially someone you look up to."
Almost as noteworthy are the factors that did not sway the jury, Long said.
Defense attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell announced after the verdict that he plans to appeal, citing testimony by detectives who alleged Blackwell had abused other victims.
Circuit Judge Stuart R. Berger cut short the testimony and admonished those officers, but the same detectives gave interviews that appeared on television and in the newspaper.
Long said he doesn't remember any juror mentioning the news or the other victims: "It wasn't about the others."
Several members of the jury declined yesterday to discuss their deliberations, and many said they agreed as a group to keep quiet.
Long said he was willing to speak because he believes the verdict will help other victims come forward.
He said he and his 11 peers retired to the jury room after closing arguments Wednesday and spent five to 10 minutes resting. They eventually took at least two votes that day by secret ballot. He said he doesn't remember the outcome on each count, but some were evenly split.
One of the men in favor of a not guilty verdict told the jury he had previously been accused, but not charged, of touching a young child. But that man was one who returned yesterday and said he had changed his mind, Long said.
After taking votes and handing their verdict to the judge, the 12 strangers joined hands.