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Juror in Jessie Haynes' trial says race wasn't a factor in verdict
BEAUMONT- by Haley Bull
A juror in the trial of BISD's Jessie Haynes is speaking out about what led the jury to a guilty verdict and addressing comments made after the trial.
Last Thursday, a jury comprised of three black men and three white men convicted BISD special assistant to the superintendent Jessie Haynes of obstruction of a public passageway, a Class B misdemeanor.
The conviction stemmed from a meeting Aug. 1 where it was determined by the jury that Haynes blocked a door and prevented reporter Jerry Jordan and board member Mike Neil from entering the hallway where school district attorney Melody Chappell was answering questions.
After a four day trial and guilty verdict, Judge Langston Adams sentenced Haynes to two years probation, a $2,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, an anger management program and impulse control and behavior modification classes. He also sentenced her to 90 days in jail and suspended the sentence. If she follows the terms of her probation, Haynes won't serve time. She rejected a plea deal at the outset of the trial where she would have received a one year deferred sentence and a $1,000 fine for a guilty plea.
Following the trial, some community members said race was an issue. Three days later, one juror was ready to talk.
"I was surprised at a lot of the comments that came out in the public," the juror said.
The juror asked KFDM News not to reveal his identity.
He said after he saw the evidence, including a video used by the prosecution showing the incident, "It was cut and dry to us."
"It's hard to refute video evidence," the juror said. "Everyone raised their hand immediately as to guilty and there was nobody, everyone said they strongly felt that way."
Following four days of the trial and 45 minutes of deliberation between the jurors:
"The black gentleman said we want to send a sign to the community, we want to show that we're in unity so during this whole trial, you know, we had just sat wherever, haphazardly, but they recommended that we come out black-white-black-white-black-white, to show that we are as one and that we're standing together," the juror said.
Inside the courtroom, a message of unity, but outside some community members suggested racism was a factor.
"This was nothing about race and we made that very clear to each other, all of us jurors, and we all felt strongly in that manner that this was about an individual no matter what race, creed or color, it was about an individual and their actions," the juror said.
Sunday, the juror watched some of the comments made after the trial.
"When the DA's office spend as many resources on all misdemeanor's as this, you would think this was a lynching or a capitol punishment case over a misdemeanor in Beaumont, Texas. This is just another black mark on Beaumont like we used to," Paul Jones, president of the Beaumont chapter of the NAACP said Thursday.
"That's crazy," the juror said.
"I feel that it has a very big part in the color of her skin, because right now, look at it, isn't anyone else being convicted of a misdemeanor, you seen the video," Haynes' friend and supporter David Pete said Thursday.
"Absolutely not," the juror said as he watched. "If you were in the same courtroom and saw the same evidence that I did, then you really have me bewildered because I don't know where you would come up with those comments."
The juror said the outcome was not based on race.
"If it had been anyone, of any race, we would have found, we would have come to the same conclusions," he said.
While some people point to a racial divide, the juror said that's not the case.
"We wanted to send a message that we were unified and this was not about race. That this was about, like I said, an individual and their actions," the juror said.
The defense attorney representing Haynes has filed an appeal to overturn the conviction of obstructing a public passageway.