Rutgers Jury Ends Day Without Verdict

How Dharun Ravi's panel panel of jurors was chosen.

March 13, 2012, 8:51 AM

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. March 14, 2012 -- Burden of Proof: Analysis by Chris Cuomo

The jury in the trial of former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi completed their first day of deliberations today without reaching a verdict on charges that he spied on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi.

Ravi, 20, is charged with multiple counts of invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence, and bias intimidation—a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison—for allegedly using his webcam to spy on Clementi with another man in their shared Rutgers dorm room just weeks into their freshman year.

It's a case that has generated 17 months of intense media attention after Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010.

If convicted of the most serious charges, Ravi, an Indian citizen who grew up in New Jersey, could also be deported.

The jury of seven women and five men asked the judge for guidance on New Jersey's bias intimidation law shortly after beginning deliberations.

The issue of bias intimidation -- a hate crime -- is the most serious charges against Ravi, which is required for a conviction of a hate crime.

The jurors deciding Ravi's fate range from young people in their 20's to grandparents in their 70's.

One juror is the mother of a 20-year-old who enjoys playing Frisbee, sharing Ravi's age and interest.

One is a freelance writer who is single and without any children. Another young juror said he still plays X-Box games in his free time.

In helping to select the jury for the defense, Joshua Dubin, a nationally renowned lawyer and legal consultant, told ABC News that he hoped that the younger jurors can "educate the rest of the jury" about the mechanics of Twitter, Facebook, and iChat since several pieces of key evidence involve Ravi's online posts about viewing his roommate on his webcam.

The defense team also sought jurors who would not be afraid of public backlash if they came to a "not guilty" verdict in a case that has captured the nation's attention. Dubin cited the controversial 2011 Casey Anthony acquittal as a recent example of the pressures a juror might face.

To protect the privacy of the jurors during the course of the trial, courtroom police were concerned about any cameras raised in the direction of the jury box and did not permit spectators to raise their cell phones above waist level. One journalist was escorted out of the courtroom for doing so and had her photos reviewed by police.

Clementi's suicide sparked an outcry about bias against gays and cyberbullying with public figures like Ellen DeGeneres and President Obama weighing in. Given the extensive media coverage, defense team members told ABC News they worried about finding jurors who had not been over exposed to early reports, much of it inaccurate, about the high profile case.

"I was more concerned about protecting this young man's right to a fair and impartial jury than perhaps I've ever been," Dubin said in an exclusive interview with ABC News.

"There was a tidal wave of misinformation reported in the media, and it was picked up from coast to coast," said Dubin, "What was out there was a student at Rutgers taped, broadcast [and] posted gay sex occurring between his roommate and another individual."

Testimony at trial revealed that Ravi viewed his roommate Clementi kissing another man for two to five seconds on a webcam that did not record or broadcast the images, a distinction Dubin says he hopes jurors will understand

Another concern for the defense, Dubin says, is jurors reacting to Clementi's suicide as opposed to the evidence relating to the actual charges.

Judge Glenn Berman had to remind jurors three times during selection that Ravi was not charged with Clementi's death. But despite the reminders, Dubin believes it will be a challenge for jurors to put aside what they read and heard outside of the courtroom.

Even while awaiting jury selection in the courthouse, jurors were exposed to TV coverage about the case on a nearby television set.

The Rutgers Trial Jury

The jury that begins deliberating today represents a wide "cross-section of the community," according to Dubin.

Of the approximately 2,000 jurors initially summoned, 188 answered a detailed voir dire about their backgrounds, education level, families and potential biases. The questions addressed a range of issues including whether the potential jurors had ever been bullied, held biases based on race or sexual orientation, or experienced personal roommate issues.

"You don't have the ability to select anyone," said Dubin, "Jury selection is the wrong name for this. It should be jury de-selection. You only have the ability to knock off [potential jurors.]"

The defense's de-selection strategy generally favored people who were single and parents whose children were teenagers or fully grown. These parents are more understanding of "immature" behavior and how rumors spread around a dorm, according to Dubin, while parents of young children are "in a much more protective mode."

With experience in dozens of high profile cases including the recent acquittal of the "Gotti" Lorenzo brothers, Dubin believes that jurors will eventually ask themselves the question: "It might have been really immature, but should this kid go to jail?"

The jurors listened to the numerous witnesses who said that Ravi had never said anything negative or derogatory about gays, a standard which is necessary to support the bias intimidation charges.

"It takes a lot of courage, after an assumption of guilt in the media, to assume innocence as a juror," said Dubin, "But there is no bias in this case and he didn't mean to intimidate anyone."

Dubin predicts a verdict from the jury by Friday.

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