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Jurors are confident of deadlock votes



Published: Thu, August 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The jurors remained silent until now to avoid swaying a second trial.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Two jurors on opposite sides of the deadlock in the Ohio highway shootings trial in May said Wednesday that they would vote the same way today even after the man's guilty plea to 11 charges.

The panel was deadlocked from the moment deliberations began after eight days of testimony and never changed over five days of deliberations, the jurors told The Associated Press.

Jurors had remained silent until now because they didn't want to taint a second trial. But the trial is no longer needed because Charles McCoy Jr. pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter and 10 other counts, including attempted murder, and has started a 27-year prison sentence.

McCoy's explanation

McCoy, 29, shot from his car and overpasses at moving vehicles and buildings over five months in 2003 and 2004, killing a woman and terrorizing central Ohio. He had stopped taking medication for his severe paranoid schizophrenia, and told psychiatrists later that shooting would quiet mocking voices in his head.

McCoy originally pleaded innocent by reason of insanity to 24 counts, including an aggravated murder charge that carried the death penalty. After the mistrial, prosecutors said they would no longer seek execution because of his illness.

The jury voted three times, each time 8-4 in favor of sanity, jurors said Wednesday.

"The evidence shows me he absolutely knew what he was doing, with great calculation," said Bobby Collins, a retired police officer.

"He was so divorced from reality," said Elizabeth Johnson, a sixth-grade teacher who voted for insanity. "We all felt he was dangerous."

Messages seeking comment were left at the homes or offices of four other jurors. Another declined to comment, and no listings could be found for the remaining five.

Scary thought

Johnson, 49, said she still feels McCoy was insane, but is relieved at his plea and sentence. Even though she voted for sending him to a state mental hospital, she worried that he would take his medication under supervision, then stop taking it if he were declared cured and released.

"That's a scary thought," she said.

Collins, 70, said he would have voted to convict McCoy of the most serious aggravated murder charge against him, and would have been satisfied with either a death sentence or life in prison without parole. McCoy's release at age 57 in 2031 is not enough punishment, Collins said.

"This guy walked," he said.

Although they disagreed, both jurors said the deliberations were mostly civil, but intense and frustrating with some shouting.

Jurors stuck poster-size lists of evidence and issues on the jury room walls and covered the conference table with photos of shot cars.

The photos were especially chilling, Collins said. At least six of the bullet holes on the eight moving vehicles hit were within a foot of the driver's head.

The one woman killed, 62-year-old Gail Knisley of Washington Court House, was a passenger. The bullet came through the driver's side door, deflected upward and grazed the jacket sleeve of her best friend, Mary Cox, before striking Knisley in the chest.

"He would have killed six more people," Collins said. "He couldn't judge the speed of the car. That's the only thing that saved those people."

Planned out

Collins said he also used a pin to trace the route to overpasses McCoy shot from, using a map that prosecutors had displayed often in court. None of the overpasses had nearby exit ramps, and it took many turns through winding country roads to reach them.

"It took a great deal of planning," he said.

Johnson said she wanted a more detailed map to prove the argument about planning the routes to the overpasses. "I felt like there were gaps in what we were presented."

Instead, she focused on the statements by psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defense that McCoy shot because it would make voices in his head stop mocking him for failing to stand up to television programs and ads he thought were directed at him. One of the jurors made the comment that because shooting succeeded in stilling the voices temporarily, it was like "self-medicating," Johnson said.

When the jury finally deadlocked, Johnson was among a few with tears streaming down their faces.

She was thinking about the pain that Cox and McCoy's parents would have to face by testifying again in a second trial. Then she worried that another jury might vote for the death penalty.

"I thought, what have we done?" she said. "What if someone had convicted him on capital charges?"




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