Unreasonable Doubts

Justice may be blind, but Dallas jurors aren't--particularly when it comes to race

The jury, consisting of eight women and four men, was a mix of suburban and urban Dallas. There was a 34-year-old accountant from Garland, a 28-year-old receptionist from Dallas, a 44-year-old German-born nurse from Richardson, and a 31-year-old truck driver who's been a lifelong Dallas resident.

The group selected Sandra Snyder, a 52-year-old Richardson teacher, as their foreman, talked for a bit, then took their first poll. It was 7-5 for acquittal.

"Some jurors, myself included, thought they needed to put the gun in his hand," recalls Tonya Day, a 44-year-old administrative assistant. "They hadn't done that with the physical evidence."

Indeed, police never recovered the murder weapon. They collected some shell casings from the highway, and slugs found in the door of Chin's car and the victim himself were consistent with an attack on the freeway. But they had not been connected to Ramirez or anyone else.

Another juror, the North Dallas businessman who asked not to be named, says he had no trouble reaching a guilty verdict on the first pass. "The evidence fit together very well," he remembers. "We were instructed to disregard the girlfriend's statement, but you still had the detective's account and the eyewitnesses."

The juror says that the panel began going over every piece of evidence--asking the judge several times to supply them with exhibits and testimony. But from the very start, Ana Lozano, the 36-year-old secretary who held out for an acquittal, refused to concede even the most straightforward points.

For instance, prosecutors had asked one of Ramirez's neighbors to identify the black pickup truck involved in the shooting. The neighbor, visibly nervous on the witness stand, said she had seen the truck often at Ramirez's house, which is located in an enclave of burglar-barred brick cottages a few blocks from C.F. Hawn Freeway.

The pickup had distinctive chrome wheels, including five spokes in the shape of a star, the neighbor testified. Right after the shooting in mid-December, someone painted the bottom part of the truck to make it two-tone, black and off-white, she said.

"The woman who held out said, 'How do we know it was the same truck?'" the North Dallas juror recalls. "It got to be exasperating."

Lozano declined to respond to several phone calls requesting an interview.
A third juror, a middle-aged Anglo woman who asked not to be identified, says a poll of the jury, conducted near the end of the first day of deliberations, shifted the vote to a 6-6 tie, and the group went home for the night.

"The witnesses were not absolutely credible, but the more we talked about the evidence, the clearer it got," the juror says. She concluded Ramirez's girlfriend was lying about her boyfriend's alibi and the writing of her statement.

The next day, after more discussion, the vote shifted to 9-3, and then in the early afternoon to 11-1. Lozano, whom other jurors described as defensive for much of the deliberations, became more so when it became clear she was the sole hold-out.

"She told us that her brother got falsely accused of something, that it was easy to have a case of mistaken identity," Day relates. Other jurors recall that statement as well. Lozano told the panel they couldn't see things her way because they hadn't grown up in her Oak Cliff neighborhood.

The prosecutors, Moffitt and Dodd, say they had asked the panel questions that should have brought those views to the surface during jury selection. "I asked if anyone might have a problem with finding someone guilty based on a single eyewitness," recalls Dodd. "She didn't raise her hand."

According to juror Day, things started getting a little tense and moody as the second day wore on and the deadlock set in at 11-1.

"One girl got mad--she was a stewardess, in her 30s--and she got angry. She told the one juror, 'Can't you see anything? You're just doing this because he's Hispanic.' After that, things turned hectic."

Day says Lozano denied the accusation, but some on the panel weren't convinced. "I was talking with a few of the girls after it was over, and we all thought the Hispanic thing had a lot to do with it. I was sure that was it."

Lozano made it clear to the group that she was firm in her beliefs. The foreman wrote Creuzot a note saying, "We are in conflict! We are in conflict as to whether we can come to a unanimous verdict." The judge, deciding not to prolong the stalemate, declared a mistrial.

Afterward, as they got ready to go home, few of the jurors were in a mood to discuss their thoughts with the lawyers, who hoped to gain some insights for the retrial. Lozano simply bolted. The 11 pro-guilty jurors shunned defense attorney Perez, who remembers, "It wasn't just 'No,' it was 'Hell no, we won't talk to you.'"

It took them time to get over it.
Lozano's husband, commenting briefly, says she was upset for weeks.
"It was one thing to have four days of our time wasted," says one juror who declined to be named. "It was another thing to have David Paz Ramirez out there on the street. The whole thing was horribly frustrating. I get irritated just talking about it."

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