Worthington Revisited

We know we’ve been a bit heavy on the cross-promotion this week, but bear with us. In the March 2007 issue of Boston magazine, Cape Cod writer Peter Manso detailed the huge flaws in the trial of Christopher McCowen, the man who was found guilty of murdering fashion writer Christina Worthington in 2002. Manso described the charges of racism in the jury room, which has led a judge to call the jury back to find out what really happened.

In the March article, Manso raised the possibility that a hearing may happen.

The motion for a retrial awaits review by Judge Nickerson. He can deny it outright; he can hold a hearing in which the defense and prosecution present oral arguments; or, more broadly, he can order a hearing in which the jurors are questioned one by one to determine the validity of the allegations set forth in George’s motion and its affidavits.

The Globe finds that Nickerson’s hearing is an unusual step for a case that has already been resolved.

Although judges sometimes privately question a juror in chambers or softly, next to the bench, about possible bias during a trial – or, more rarely, in open court after a verdict – one legal specialist said he could not recall another case when a judge held a public hearing to interview an entire jury months after a trial.

“I have not come across such a case,” said Jeffrey B. Abramson, a former Middlesex County prosecutor and a specialist on juries who teaches at Brandeis University. “It’s normally the case that the judge is not interested in knowing what went on in the jury room, but the one great exception to that are allegations of racial bias in deliberations.”

A state trial judge who is not involved in the case said he, too, was unaware of another case when a judge summoned a jury for questioning months after the verdict. . . .

In Manso’s piece, Worthington juror Roshena Bohanna told him there was a presumption of guilt as well.

. . . [T]he trouble began “three or four days” before the deliberations, when one of the jurors, Eric Gomes, a manager at a Falmouth bar, ignored Judge Nickerson’s instructions not to discuss the case until they got into the jury room. “I think he’s guilty,” Bohanna recalled Gomes’s telling her.

Even if the verdict remains the same, it’s reassuring to see the state investigating the claims of the jurors. We’ll keep you posted on the developments.