Patrick Kirkland, one of the twelve jurors who found NYPD officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata not guilty in the rape of an East Village woman, explains the process of doing so today in surprising, and often excruciating, detail. The self-described "middle class white guy," an advertising copywriter, gives his account to Gothamist as part of the local news blog's foray into long-form nonfiction. In his telling, Kirkland describes transitioning from labeling Moreno initially as simply a "rapist," based on the cop's "demeanor," to understanding the nuances of the American justice system, especially when it comes to the "burden of proof." Kirkland is a touch defensive about the verdict and concedes that no one on the jury could really know what happened in the young woman's apartment that night, but concludes, "We acquit because if we were the ones on trial, we'd want the same treatment." Oddly enough, he also tells of a run-in with Moreno and Mata after the verdict came down:
Moreno rushed toward me. I stiffened, prepared myself for being tackled to the ground; after all, I just cost him his pension, his job—I had just convicted him. In a split second, a pair of short, stocky arms wrapped around me. The arms tightened, and then the high-pitched, softspoken voice I remembered from the witness stand whispered, "Thank you."
The above encounter occurred not at the courtroom, but at a restaurant, where Kirkland was invited by defense attorney Joe Tacopina. Moreno's teenage daughter thanked the juror as well, and then he listened to the family's side of the story. Mata smiled and shook Kirkland's hand. Although Kirkland's job is done at this point, hearing of him in reporter mode with the men he just acquitted feels a bit unsavory. "It's impossible for me to imagine these people as 'Rape Cops,'" Kirland writes. "It's impossible to imagine them as anything other than what they are at that moment: human beings."
Also in the piece are expansive accounts of conversations among the jurors throughout their deliberation, including their plan to decide on all of the lesser charges before tackling the most serious of the 26 counts, rape. "But the closer we get to zero, the less I care how it's done," Kirkland admits.
To be introspective about his role in such a divisive case is brave, but that doesn't make the words on the page any easier to digest.