Caroline Kennedy and fellow jurors returned a surprising verdict Monday afternoon. The 55-year-old daughter of popular early 1960s US President John F. Kennedy had been selected for jury service even though she’d disclosed to Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers that she had known the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. “since I was in elementary school.”
Many observers saluted Caroline Kennedy’s jury pick, saying it proved that even the rich weren’t exempt from service.
Others — and I’ll freely admit that I was one of them — questioned how somebody with such close ties could to the prosecution side could really be fair.
In the week-long case, 31-year-old Nelson Chatman was accused of selling four $5 bags of crack cocaine to an undercover police officer. It was a serious case because Chatman, as a repeat offender, faced a minimum six years sentence if he was convicted.
So public defender Mark Jankowitz was taking something of a risk when he allowed Kennedy to be selected for juror number seven.
A courtroom report noted that Caroline Kennedy was a focused juror who paid attention. She even asked a fidgety witness, Detective Christopher Fleming, not to keep moving a photo around because it was distracting the panel.
According to a report in The New York Daily Post, the jurors have now decided that the police couldn’t prove that they picked up the right man when they arrested Chatman, who didn’t have any crack on him when he was arrested. More tellingly, he didn’t have any of the marked money from the undercover drug sale either.
Officers admitted in court testimony that they simply assumed Chatman had either handed off or dropped those items while fleeing arrest, but they offered no evidence for that belief.
Therefore, after deliberating for about an hour, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.
Are you surprised by the outcome of the Caroline Kennedy jurors’ decision?