Juror: `Upsetting and disturbing’
One of the jurors who convicted Stefan Schutter last week said the idea of sending an 18-year-old boy to prison caused her confusion and anguished emotions.
The jury found Schutter guilty on Friday of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and theft for his role in the Aug. 19,1999, robbery of the Village Market in Snowmass Village. But they did not find him guilty of second-degree assault, a charge that arose over the pistol-whipping of the store manager by one of the robbers.
“We did our job as jurors … something that was very difficult,” said juror Connie Holcomb, stressing that she was speaking only of her feelings during the four-day trial, and not for the jury as a whole. “It was very upsetting and disturbing for everybody on the jury. “
She said some on the jury were “uncomfortable with the case as a whole because there was so little information.” The prosecution based its case largely on testimony from others implicated in the Village Market robbery and in other crimes committed at around the same time, during a spree involving a group of 12 local teens who had been friends for years.
Holcomb, who has no children of her own but has been a nanny for other families in this area, said she had never known Schutter but had known some of the others involved.
In considering the arguments put forward by the prosecution and the defense, she said, “Some of us felt very clearly that there were aspects of the case that were proven,” such as whether Schutter was involved in the robbery at all.
She indicated that the testimony of the witnesses, which prosecutor John Clune used to weave a tapestry of circumstantial evidence around Schutter, was convincing. This was despite the defense’s claim that the witnesses were untrustworthy because they had cut deals with the prosecution in bids for leniency from the courts.
“That was something that was discussed a great deal,” she said of the witness credibility issue. In particular, she keyed on the testimony of Wade Hammond, explaining, “These kids were all homies, they were all friends. I didn’t think Wade Hammond would implicate [Schutter] in a crime he was in no way involved in.”
If Schutter had not been involved, she reasoned, he would have had an alibi or witness that could place him elsewhere on the night of the crime.
As for the assault charge, she said, “The prosecution did not prove that beyond a reasonable doubt,” despite testimony from convicted felon Jacob Richards that Schutter had admitted to the deed.
Some jurors, she said, pressed for “a slap on the wrist, and maybe he’d learn his lesson. People were very uncomfortable with finding him guilty of aggravated robbery.” She said some jurors were thinking of the severe penalties involved, even though they were instructed not to by the judge.
She also said Schutter did himself no good by not testifying on his own behalf, noting, “It was hard to get any feeling for this young man, because all he could do was sit there.”
Overall, she said, the atmosphere in the jury room was “tense … [but] there was nothing but respect for one another, and cooperation.”
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