On the first vote, half the jurors were ready to send Mark Ducic to his death. After several days of tense deliberations in an Ohio courthouse, they had already convicted Ducic of mass murder--killing two people with lethal cocktails of prescription drugs. Now they had to consider his fate.
Juror 12, a strong-willed New Jersey native named Carmella Juarbe, had nearly held out for acquittal in the first place. As the rest of the jury began to compromise on a life sentence, Juarbe insisted on parole after 30 years. "One juror can make a difference," she said. It sounds like a scene out of a made-for-TV movie. But when it airs on ABC Aug. 10 and 11, the documentary "In the Jury Room" will make history: for the first time, cameras have captured a real jury deliberating a death sentence.
Though cameras invaded courtrooms long ago, they have only recently--and rarely--penetrated the jury room. Critics have worried that jurors might grandstand or be too shy to speak up. Even some advocates of filming trials are ambivalent about entering the jury's inner sanctum. "Courtrooms are public. The jury is different," says Court TV founder Steven Brill. ABC hopes the show--the series' only capital case--will shed light on one of the most mysterious facets of the legal system. At a time when the death penalty is under intense scrutiny, "it's important for the American people to see the process," says ABC News' Cynthia McFadden, who narrates the documentary. ABC is so convinced of the program's educational value that it will release a transcript of the deliberations.
To limit the controversy, the network obtained permission from the Ohio Supreme Court. Ducic and his lawyers, the judge, prosecutors and prospective jurors (10 of 60 opted out) all agreed to the filming. And producer Michael Bicks vowed to stop the project if he thought the cameras were affecting the outcome.
In the end, it's nearly impossible to determine whether they did. NEWSWEEK was granted access to an unedited version of the film last month. After Juarbe refused to compromise on the penalty, the jury hung and the judge sentenced Ducic to two consecutive life terms. In later interviews with NEWSWEEK, six jurors, defense lawyers, prosecutors and the judge said the filming had not affected their behavior or the case's outcome. Most said they forgot about the tiny remote-controlled cameras. "I don't think it changed anything," says Chuck Whitehill, the jury's foreman.
Still, some of the jurors said that others had acted differently, knowing they'd be on television. Several accused Juarbe of showboating; Juarbe charges that other jurors were inhibited by the cameras. She now regrets agreeing to convict Ducic--though she says "it had nothing to do with the cameras"--and plans to write a book about the experience. Only defense co-counsel Mark Spadaro had second thoughts about the cameras. "How can it not somehow influence you?" he asks. Though Ducic's trial lawyers say he wasn't bothered by the filming, he plans to appeal; his appellate lawyer, John Gibbons, has turned down past offers to have his trials filmed. "I think it serves absolutely no purpose," he says. Still, he's eager to get his hands on the transcripts.