By Evan Serpick
So, the verdict is in. And now, observers are left to wonder what went on in the jury room over the seven days of deliberation. To quote Sun columnist and WYPR host Dan Rodricks, with whom I shared a courtroom bench on verdict day, "It would make a helluva movie."
I have my own theory about the gist of the deliberations and why the 12 men and women of the jury made the decision they did. I think a lot of city residents might have arrived at a similar verdict.
It's seems very likely to me that Mayor Dixon mis-used gift cards that she knew were intended to be given away to kids. In the case of the gift cards purchased by developer Patrick Turner, she specifically asked for them as giveaways and then used them for herself. Her contention that she thought the cards—which arrived in her office in an unmarked envelope days after she requested them—were an anonymous gift from developer/boyfriend Robert Lipscomb was far-fetched. Besides the timing of the request and the arrival of the gift cards, what kind of anonymous gift is a stack of $25 gift cards?
At the same time, I think the lengths to which Republican state prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh has gone to take down the popular Democratic mayor are appalling, and I bet the jury did too. His investigation opened over four years ago, when the mayor was an outspoken city council president. After spending millions of dollars in taxpayer money on the investigation, Rohrbaugh came up with $500 in mis-spent gift cards. If he cares so much about "the children of Baltimore," who he claims were victimized, he could have just given them a portion of the millions he's spent to take down a mayor who is largely seen as an effective, proactive voice in city government.
No one wants to outright ignore wrongdoing, but I'm guessing that some jury members were trying to balance their sense of immediate justice with a sense of broader justice. I think most, if not all, understand that the mayor had done something wrong. But I'd bet that many were leery of removing from office the first African-American woman to sit in the mayor's chair, particularly on charges that may seem like a petty or minor misapprpriation of funds.
After seven hard days of deliberations—the notes requesting smoke breaks might have set a record—the jury ultimately found an uneasy compromise. They convicted Mayor Dixon of one of the lesser charges she faced, acquited her of three others, and left one other undecided.
Mayor Dixon will likely have to step down in the coming days, but whether justice has been served remains a question for debate.