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'We couldn't convict them'

Jurors frustrated by lack of evidence in stabbing case

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Posted: Friday June 16, 2000 06:49 PM

  Reginald Oakley (right) and Joseph Sweeting were both acquitted of murder. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- Five jurors in the murder trial of NFL star Ray Lewis said they wanted to convict someone for the killings of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, but did not have enough evidence to do so.

In interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the jurors said the law, a lack of evidence and a poorly presented case forced them to acquit Lewis' friends, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.

"I kept waiting for the punch line, some strong evidence that these guys did it," jury forewoman Gladys Mosley said. "But it just never came."

Baker and Lollar were stabbed to death Jan. 31 in a street brawl in the Buckhead entertainment district after a post-Super Bowl party. Police charged Lewis, Oakley and Sweeting with murder and aggravated assault.

After two weeks of testimony, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice before the jury and received 12 months probation. Prosecutors dropped murder and assault charges against Lewis in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting.

Mosley said she cringed as she announced the verdicts of not guilty and heard the victims' relatives begin cursing and weeping.

"To them, they must think we let two people free who had committed those killings," she said. "But from a lack of evidence, we couldn't convict them. We felt for their families. We really did. But we had to go by the facts and the law."

Within an hour of beginning their deliberations Monday morning, jurors had kicked out the charges against Sweeting. After an early lunch, the 10 women and two men focused on the charges against Oakley.

Juror Anita Gill said she wanted to make someone pay for the killings. She managed to persuade another woman to consider convicting Oakley, but soon both changed their minds.

The jurors noted that District Attorney Paul Howard made promises in his opening statement that he didn't keep. They also wondered if other passengers in Lewis' stretch limousine had a hand in the killings.

"It was a gang fight where no one saw nothing," said juror Fred Myers.

Juror Dewie Hoover said the indictment specified the jury had to find Oakley and Sweeting cut or stabbed the victims with a knife to convict of aggravated assault. But no witness said they saw the two men stab anyone, he said.

"Maybe one day the Lord will make it all be clear to me," said Hoover. "I've lost a lot of sleep over it. Maybe we let two people who should have been convicted walk. I hope someday they [Oakley and Sweeting] don't make a liar out of me."


 
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