When i first began writing true crime, I used to use an artist's rendition of the crime scene. When I was working on my latest book, and preparing to send the first draft to the family of the victim, I realized that the survivors do not want to see where their loved one spent their last moments. in that, I choose to show the victims on the cover and stay away from blood and gore.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first book in 1986 and followed with a few other novels after that. Although all my novels have been unpublished, I grew to like the style. In that, I apply novel techniques to the courtroom scenes I witness daily. It makes for an easier story to read while excluding those things that lengthen a trial. Everything is about the victim but it is also about the reader and keeping them on the edge of their seats.
How did your DeVault trial help you with this book?
There is a chapter in “Why Not Kill Her” entitled “The Logistics of Serendipity." The chapter takes place while the second jury of Arias was in deliberations. We had just learned that the possibility of a hung jury was in play. I was seated next to the victim’s best friend, Chris Hughes, and shared my experience and the lessons learned from the DeVault trial. Out of the four questions we were tasked to answer as a jury, we had hung on one of those questions. By having experienced that difficult position, I was able to apply it to Arias. I think it gave Chris and the family some comfort because it forced us to look at the big picture and the end result. Was life without parole for the defendant such a bad option?
Why did you decide to tell this story a juror's eyes?
I think few people understand the enormity of the task placed in front of a tax-paying citizen. A trial is not only about the evidence presented, it is also about the protocols and admonishments that jurors must own. There can be no good ending in a murder trial, only lessons. I chose to write “Why Not Kill Her” to find those lessons and draw some good that can come from something as tragic as murder.
How is a juror's perspective different from that of those watching a trial on television or following in the news?
Many jurors never want to go through the experience again and few will. The mindset of a juror is completely different from being a casual observer because jurors, in a sense, own the crime and punishment. Further, with the admonishment in play, jurors are forced to internalize the events of a trial. Each juror knows that one day they will have to collectively reach a decision and each wants to do the right thing. Jury duty is an integrity test as well as a constant moral examination. Consequently, a juror’s perspective will be inherently different from an observer’s perspective because each juror has an interest in the case beyond casual.
How did you expand your social media posts into a book?
When I sat in the gallery of the Arias trial on the first day, I had 31 followers on Facebook. By the time the retrial ended five months later, I had acquired thousands of followers. The first trial of Arias was a media circus. In the second trial, the media was severely restricted with no live stream allowed, no filming released until after the verdict and a limited number of still pictures. In that, most of the media worked other assignments. So, those who wrote about the daily occurrences of the trial gained a significant amount of attention. At the conclusion of the trial, I used my daily updates to convert them into a dramatization of the trial. In that, my daily perspectives became the skeleton of the book.
What most surprised you about the Jodi Arias case?
The fact that two juries could not reach a decision in the death penalty phase really surprised me. Had the Judge been more aware of the workings of social media, especially Facebook, the outcome could have been remarkably different in the second trial.
Tell us about your juror interviews.
For the most part, the jurors came to me. There is always going to be a percentage of jurors who will cave into their curiosity to learn what they may have not seen in the trial and what people’s responses are to the verdict released. Since my daily postings were public, it was easy for former jurors to find me. Once a juror has bared the admonishment not to speak with anyone for months at a time, the conclusion of the trial yields a desire to share the experience. Who better to share with than one who has sat in their seats? Each time a juror shares with me, I am honored.
What did you learn from the jurors?
There are many things to be learned from speaking with former jurors but one of the most important is that just because a trial ends, it does not mean that they can soon forget about the trial. PTSD is a shared result from death penalty trials to a juror. The experience impacts relationships around them and it forever changes how a juror looks at a trial after the experience.
Do you feel jurors get sufficient information during trial to reach a just verdict?
Good question and the response really depends upon the case. In the matter of Arias, in both trials, the jury was given sufficient information. The issue with the second jury involved outside influences and a juror who did not want to participate in the process. To that effect, one cannot ignore the impact of social media.
What's the story behind your latest book?
"Banquet of Consequences: A Juror's Plight - The Carnation Murders Trial of Michele Anderson", is the true story of her trial and the events behind the killing of the Anderson family on December 24, 2007, in Carnation, WA. It is a horrific look into the minds of Michele Anderson and her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, to murder. This story is particularly special because of the support of the survivors, the one on one interviews with four jurors from two trials and an interview with the second killer. It is a comment on justice and a comment on the death penalty. It is my best work thus far. The reader will not soon forget Wayne, Judy, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan Anderson. In memory of the victims, it will be released on December 24, 2016.
Is there anyone you would like to credit for the interview questions?
I would like to thank Michael Fleeman and his True Crime Page blog. I was honored to be interviewing him at the same time that I was publishing this interview. I appreciated his poignant and relevant questions!
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