KELSO, Wash. – About six weeks ago, when it became clear that this mill and timber area would provide its courthouse and a local jury to judge Fred Russell, longtime Kelso City Councilman Alan Slater assured a curious visitor that Cowlitz County was up to the job.”We’re not a stupid area,” he said. “We believe in truth, and we believe in fairness. We also believe in justice.”
That confidence now has been tested. After more than three weeks of juror selection, testimony and arguments, the six-man, six-woman jury delivered its judgment. As is typical in trials, news photographers were banned from taking pictures of jurors during the trial. Jurors declined to talk to the media after the verdict. But based on their comments during jury selection, here are a few known facts about some of the 12 jurors who deliberated Russell’s fate.
Juror 1: A blond-haired woman, Juror 1 frequently looked out at the courtroom audience, particularly at the parents of the Washington State University students who were killed or injured in the June 2001 wreck. She didn’t just glance; she watched them intently for long moments.
Juror 2: A young man who wore glasses, Juror 2 grew up with an alcoholic father. He has said he believes that even one drink would impair a driver but added that “honestly, my Dad could consume many alcoholic beverages and do just fine,” including driving “with six beers in him.” He said he’s personally opposed to alcohol. Juror 2’s upbringing would seem to make him a perfect fit for a jury: “I lived in a house where Mom and Dad argued a lot, and I got to play the mediator most of the time.”
Juror 5: A local pastor, Juror 5 was outspoken about the need to balance the facts of the case. “You want to believe the best about a person … until you really have the just cause to know it’s different than what you believe,” he said when questioned by attorneys.
Juror 7: A balding man with brownish-blond hair, Juror 7 worked at a local mill and attended church. Questioned about whether he had seen news coverage of the Russell case, he said he only gets one TV channel and rarely watches that. He surprised courtroom observers one day by wearing a T-shirt with “Got Jesus?” printed in large white letters across the front.
Juror 8: A man, probably in his 30s, who said he doesn’t drink.
Juror 10: A woman who said she thought it was OK “to have a glass of wine with dinner.”
Juror 12: A single woman with dark hair past her shoulders. She was convicted of rendering criminal assistance, reportedly from being in the car while her ex-boyfriend kicked in the door of a person’s house. She pleaded guilty at the time, saying she was scared and wanted to move on, but that she wasn’t guilty. Upon arrest, she said, “I felt like I was being treated guilty.”