DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As jurors deliberated the fate of the now convicted killer Antonio Cochran, a single question seemed to resonate across the courthouse and across North Texas: what’s taking so long?
“We talked and we talked and we talked,” says one of the jurors, “and did some of the time it get heated? Absolutely.”
We will call her ‘Juror 10′. She was one of the 11 pushing to convict Cochran of capital murder in the death of Dallas teenager Zoe Hastings. Hastings stopped at a drugstore within a stone’s throw of her Lake Highlands area home to return a Redbox movie. Police say Cochran forced her to slide over to the passenger side of the vehicle before driving to a wooded area nearby where he raped and murdered her. But, as many suspected, a lone juror was distracted by conflicting witness accounts of the crime, and refused to convict Cochran of capital murder. Juror 10 says she’s speaking out because she wants to set the record straight.
“I wanted them [Hastings’ parents] to know that 11 of us knew that there was no way that their daughter was going to get in a car and drive off with a man she didn’t know.” The juror went on to say that when the lone juror refused to budge after days of deliberations, they were forced to convict Cochran of the lesser charge of murder. It was never an option, she says, to fail to reach a verdict– even an unpopular one– because the majority of the jurors wanted to spare the family the ordeal of another trial.
“It wasn’t about how we felt, it was about what they needed: and they needed this to be over.”
Although jurors didn’t need to be reminded of the family’s pain– Juror 10 says Jim Hastings’ soul baring testimony during sentencing was almost too much to bear.
“Even some of the men in our jury cried…they wept. To see that Dad sit up there like that and talk about his daughter and not being able to see her the day she died, they missed each other… that was heart wrenching.” And once again her own eyes shine with unshed tears, “when they agreed to see us, we started crying again. And we hugged them.”
After the jury took just six minutes to sentence Cochran to life in prison (he will be eligible for parole after serving 30 calendar years), the Hastings family thanked their supporters– the police for “finding Zoe’s killer”, and for the prosecutors and investigators who worked on the case. They thanked family, friends, neighbors and their church for the ongoing support… and they thanked the jury for doing a very difficult job.
“We are grateful for the jury,” said Jim Hastings. “They had to look at and hear terrible things, and we pray they can move on with their lives and feel at peace with their decision.”
When I asked Juror 10 if the case would haunt her, the answer came quickly.
“Oh, it will haunt me. Absolutely.” But, she says she expects to begin sleeping more soundly now that their jobs are done… and that includes some parting words of comfort for those that loved Zoe Hastings.
“I wanted the family to know that we did our very best and I wanted the people who called us dumb jurors and idiots to know there was a lot of evidence, a lot of graphic pictures and we did the best we could do with what we were given and we didn’t get capital murder; but, in the end I think we got it right with life in prison.”
And she says she will never forget Zoe Hastings.
“I tear up sometimes talking about her… she would have changed this world for the better.”