Make us your home page

A Cry in the Night, Part 9: We, The Jury

[Originally published June 26, 1988]

That Saturday, as the jurors prepared to deliberate, a little girl played outside the courtroom. Her name was Tiffany Lewis. She was 2 years old. Her entire life had been entangled in the case that was now unfolding around her. She had been conceived around the same time that a woman who lived across the street from her parents was murdered. She had been born just as her father was becoming a suspect in that murder. And it was only a few weeks after her first birthday when a detective — a family friend whose wife sometimes babysat her — arrested her father.

Now, on this day, Tiffany had been brought to the Polk County Courthouse. She wore a patterned dress and sandals. Her dark curly hair had been pulled into a little ponytail. She padded around the halls, gazing up at all the strangers. For a moment, she stood beside David Mackey, Karen Gregory's boyfriend. David looked down and lightly caressed the top of her head.

During the recesses, George Lewis would go outside the courtroom to join Tiffany and his wife, Glenda. These were precious moments for George. If convicted, he might never again have a chance to see his family outside a prison. Now, he and his wife and daughter sat together on a bench. George kissed Tiffany and held her in his lap and hugged her and smiled at her as she made silly faces at him.

One of the jurors saw them. The juror's name was Maytha Schafer. Not long before she and the others were to begin deliberations, Schafer went out to the hall, and there was Lewis, playing with his daughter. Schafer felt bad when she saw them. But she suspected she was supposed to feel that way. Lewis, she told herself, was putting Tiffany on display so the jurors would notice her and think about her. He was using that child, Schafer thought, to win their sympathy.


It was about 2:45 that afternoon when Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell sent the jurors into the room at the back of Courtroom A to deliberate.

The jury room would have made a fine cell. It was a drab little box of a room, about 10 feet by 20. There were no pictures on the walls, which were covered with peeling paint, and there was only one window and a pair of adjoining bathrooms, so that the jurors would not have to step into the halls and mingle with anyone while they were deliberating. There was also a long table — it took up most of the room — and some chairs, two pitchers of water and some paper cups and a little closet for storing evidence. There was only one door out, and on the wall beside it was a buzzer the jurors were supposed to press when they had a question or had reached a verdict.

Other than these few necessities, about the only things in the room were the evidence — including the rolled-up section of carpet on which Karen Gregory had died — plus some typewritten copies of the judge's instructions, some verdict forms and the jurors themselves, who were now sitting around the table looking at one another.

"Well," said someone. "Here we are."

Over the past two weeks, the jurors had been thrown together for hours at a stretch in this room. They'd learned a few things about one another. They memorized names and nicknames, talked about their families and their jobs, told jokes, and gossiped about Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, whose troubles had recently hit the headlines. One of the jurors celebrated a wedding anniversary during the trial, another a birthday. And two of them, it turned out, were neighbors as children and had not seen each other for the last 15 years.

In alphabetical order, the jurors were:

Gregory Blessing, 35, a food and beverage director who recently had moved from New York. Single. He had served for about 10 years, in the North, as a volunteer firefighter.

Leif Bouffard, 37, a chemical engineer. Married, with two children.

Elizabeth Carter, 65, a school custodian. A widow, with two daughters.

Dorene Cobb, 53, a homemaker who also cleaned houses and prepared meals for the elderly. Married, with four children.

Timothy Green, 20, a cook at McDonald's. Single.

Gary Haeusler, 40, a production supervisor at a plant. Married, with two children.

Robert Lancaster, 49, a supervisor at a chemical company. Married, with two children.

Terry Nicholson, 40, a railroad employee. Married, with one child. He and Lancaster were the long-separated neighbors.

Theodore Saliba, 61, the director of athletics for the Polk County school system. Married, three children.

Maytha Schafer, 69, a retired accountant who enjoyed collecting shells. Married, with one child.

Eulalia Whitcomb, 60, a bookkeeper. Married. Originally, she had been picked as an alternate juror but had been moved onto the jury midway through the trial, after another juror asked to be excused because she was suffering from nightmares in which she heard screams.

Ruth Wunder, 38, a sales representative and seamstress. Married, with four children.

These were the seven men and five women who had been chosen to decide this case. Yet they knew less about the case than almost anyone else involved. Like other juries, they had not been told all the facts, but a carefully edited, hotly contested version. A whole series of questions, arguments and controversies had been raised outside their hearing. They had not been told about the motions for mistrial that the defense had filed as the white teddy was brought into the trial. Nor did they know that another legal battle had been fought as the defense sought to read through Karen Gregory's diary. In fact, they didn't even know that Karen had a diary. Day after day, the 12 of them had sat in this jury room, waiting for the lawyers to settle whatever they were quarreling about. Boredom had set in quickly. Some of the jurors had taken naps. One had bought a National Enquirer — a headline on the front said, "Ryan O'Neal's son: My dad's a monster" — and they'd taken turns reading it.

It had not always been easy inside the courtroom, either. Tim Green, the McDonald's cook, sat at the far end of the back row and had encountered some difficulty hearing the witnesses. He'd had an especially hard time making out the testimony of the soft-spoken Glenda Lewis. Green was a polite, friendly young man who loved to watch old episodes of Star Trek in his spare time. Each day he'd gone to court to hear the lawyers and the witnesses; then, in the evenings, he'd gone to his regular job at McDonald's, flipping quarter pounders until midnight. The long hours had caught up with him. That Saturday, as the lawyers gave their final arguments, he'd had trouble staying awake. He'd even nodded off occasionally when the lawyers went to the bench to argue.

Throughout the trial, Green and other jurors had been distracted — and sometimes irritated — by the continual objections from the lawyers, especially the defense lawyers, who seemed to never tire of interrupting witnesses in mid-sentence with requests to approach the bench. Several jurors, meanwhile, had been surprised that they could not ask their own questions of the witnesses. This was standard procedure at a trial. If jurors were given a chance to question witnesses, the lawyers and the judge would relinquish control over what the jurors heard. It was simply not allowed. Still, this made no sense to some of those on the Lewis jury. A man's life was in their hands, and yet they felt as though they'd been left with gaping holes in their understanding of the facts. One juror had wanted to ask why photos of the bloody handprints found on Karen's body had not been enlarged and sent to the FBI. At least two wanted to know if Lewis had a bad temper — a point on which they recalled hearing nothing.

Hungry for insight into his personality, many of the jurors had studied Lewis during the trial, noting the moments in the testimony when his face grew red, checking to see if he was ever reluctant to look them in the eye. Tim Green had tried to visualize Lewis inside the house that night, stabbing Karen in the hallway. It didn't seem possible. George looked too nice. The thought had occurred to other jurors as well. But they tried to remember that even the nicest looking people can commit horrible crimes.

Maytha Schafer, the retired accountant, had learned this the hard way. Before she and her husband retired to Florida, Schafer had worked as the office manager of a car dealership in Chicago. There was one customer who came in every year to buy the first new car of the season. He was a friendly man who sometimes dressed up as a clown for children. When he visited the dealership, he always brought a young boy with him. The man's name was John Wayne Gacy, and in the late 1970s, the police made the gruesome discovery that he'd killed 33 boys and young men, then buried many of them in the crawl space under his house. The news had shocked Schafer. One of the worst serial killers in history had stood in front of her, year after year, and she'd never guessed it. For all she knew, some of those boys he'd brought to the dealership had been among his victims.

Now, sitting in the jury room, Schafer thought back to Gacy. It was foolish, she told herself, to think you really know what anybody is capable of.

Schafer was the oldest juror. A graceful woman with striking white hair and an easy smile, she and her husband lived in a small, comfortable home in Lakeland that was decorated with her seashells and photos of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her life was a peaceful one. But since the trial had begun, Schafer had been uneasy. She was having trouble sleeping. When she closed her eyes, she kept thinking about the case. She'd found it upsetting to see the photos and videotape of Karen's body. At the same time, she found herself thinking a great deal about Lewis and how his future was in her hands.

Her husband said she shouldn't bother worrying. Maytha hadn't told him about the case — the judge had ordered the jurors to not discuss it — but he did know it was a first-degree murder trial. Mr. Schafer, a retired ironworker, had grown cynical about the court system. He told his wife it didn't matter what she and the other jurors did. It would only be overturned later on appeal. She was wasting her time, he said.

The first thing they did was pick someone to lead the deliberations. They settled quickly on Greg Blessing, the former firefighter.

Born and raised in New York City, Blessing carried both the accent and the confidence found in so many from that town. Working at a country club restaurant near Sebring, he was an extremely busy man. He walked fast, talked fast and often seemed to be in a hurry. To the others, he seemed a natural choice for foreman, not because of his background in firefighting but because he sat at the end of the front row and was closest to the judge. Besides, someone said, a person in the front row is always foreman on TV.

Once that decision had been made, the jurors dove into the larger one, looking through the photos, asking questions that had lingered in their minds. Many had been struck by the inconsistencies in Lewis' stories — especially the inconsistencies in the account he'd given on the witness stand. As the prosecutors had pointed out, Lewis had been one of the last witnesses to testify at the trial. He also had been the only witness who was allowed to sit in the courtroom and hear everyone else testify. By the time he'd taken the stand, he'd known all the evidence against him. He'd known what he had to account for. Such as the lights.

The jurors had heard the tape recording of the final statement Lewis gave the police. They'd heard him tell the detectives that the lights inside Karen's house were off that night. He said he stood there in the hall and saw Karen lying on the floor with her throat cut open. But during the trial, the prosecutors had proved that it would have been too dark to have seen Karen there — too dark, at least, without a light. So when he took the witness stand, what did he say? He said that a light was on after all. A faint light in the bathroom.

One contradiction tumbled after the other. Before the trial, Lewis had told police he was not barefoot that night. But on the stand, knowing that a bloody print from his bare right foot had been found in the house, he said he was in fact barefoot. Before, he'd said he had merely gone into the house, seen Karen's body, then left. But at the trial, after it had been explained that his footprint had been found in the bathroom, he said that after seeing Karen's body he'd become ill and had run into the bathroom and thrown up in the toilet — something he had never mentioned before.

The jurors also thought back to a point on which the prosecutors had hammered during closing arguments. If Lewis really had gone into the bathroom, then why didn't the police find any sign of his walking to the toilet? It already had been proven that he'd had blood on the bottom of at least one of his feet. Yet only one footprint had been found on the tile floor of the bathroom. And that footprint had been near the edge of the room, about five feet from the toilet.

Greg Blessing picked up a photograph of that solitary footprint. To him, it looked as though the print did not even point toward the toilet. It looked as though Lewis had made that print while standing in the doorway, with his right foot in the bathroom and his left on the hallway carpet. Already, Blessing was fairly sure which way he was going to decide. He thought the defense had made some valid points. He agreed, as did other jurors, that the police work in this case had been far from perfect. Mistakes had been made. Blessing was still surprised that weeks had gone by before the hallway carpet — the carpet on which technicians later discovered so many bloody footprints — was removed from the house and taken as evidence.

But the mistakes of the police had not stopped Lewis from opening his mouth. To Blessing, it seemed that Lewis had lied so many times that it had become impossible to know when to believe him. Even the latest story, delivered on the stand, didn't seem to add up. Besides, Blessing brought a special perspective to this case. He was the former firefighter. With that in mind, he tried to put himself in Lewis' place, tried to imagine what he would have done if he'd crawled through that bedroom window and seen Karen's body on the floor. If it had been him, Blessing thought, he would have called the police. No question. But not Lewis. He hadn't called, even though he was friends with the chief detective on the case. He'd left Karen there, he'd told the jurors, without even touching her. Blessing couldn't believe it. Lewis was an emergency medical technician, and yet he hadn't felt her pulse. For all he knew, she might have still been alive.

Years in uniform also made it hard for Blessing to believe that an innocent man wouldn't have shared his secret with some of his buddies in the fire department. Blessing knew firsthand that firefighters tend to be exceptionally close to one another. They have to be. They risk their lives together. And yet Lewis said he had not breathed a word to anyone in the department. George had lied even to Glenda. In fact, he'd left her alone that night. On the stand, he testified that he'd heard Karen scream, seen the strange man on Karen's lawn, walked back to his own yard, waited for the man to disappear, then returned to Karen's house to investigate — leaving Glenda back at their house by herself. Why, Blessing asked, would George have done that? Why would he have climbed into Karen's house without first checking on Glenda?

Blessing and the others talked about some of these points. They had not talked for long when Blessing suggested they take an early vote. They knew their verdict had to be unanimous. But Blessing thought a vote now might help them see which way the group was leaning.

They had a yellow legal pad with them. Blessing borrowed someone's pocketknife and cut a sheet of paper into 12 pieces. There weren't enough pens to go around, so they shared them, taking turns. They marked their ballots quietly, covering the paper with their hands. Later, one of them would say they were like high school kids guarding their answers on a test. Most of them wrote "G" for guilty or "NG" for not guilty. They did not even discuss voting on a number of lesser charges that were listed in the judge's instructions, such as second-degree murder or manslaughter. Furthermore, they did not cast separate votes for the murder charge and the rape charge. In their eyes, Lewis was guilty of both charges or guilty of neither.

They folded their ballots and gave them to Blessing. He mixed them up so no one would know who'd voted how. Then he opened them, one by one, and read them aloud, placing the "G"s in a pile to his left and the "NG"s in a pile to his right. When he was done, there were eight ballots on the left and four on the right.

They had only started.


Outside the jury room, a bailiff sat in a chair, listening for the buzzer.

Others waited and listened as well. Knowing that the buzzer could sound at any time with a question or a verdict, the lawyers and families on both sides of the case stayed close. They roamed the courthouse, sent out for a late lunch, retreated to quiet side rooms. It was useless to guess how long it would take before they had a decision. Some juries finished in 15 minutes. Others went for days, only to announce they were deadlocked. The conventional wisdom held that quick verdicts were usually convictions. The longer the deliberations lasted, the better the chances were supposed to be for the accused. But even this rule was routinely disproven. Ciarciaglino said he didn't predict verdicts anymore. He'd been wrong so many times, he said, that he no longer bothered trying.

His reluctance was well-founded. Juries are strange creatures. Once they retreat behind that closed door, they do whatever they want. No one is allowed to sit and watch how they arrive at their verdict. No one is there to speak up if they stray from the instructions or if their recollection of the evidence is faulty.

Trial lawyers have a saying they tell their clients. When you put your fate in the hands of your fellow citizens, they say, you always roll the dice.

Maytha Schafer thought Lewis had probably done it. But she wasn't sure. She needed more time to think, more time to go over the evidence — none of which, as far as she could tell, sealed the case beyond every reasonable doubt. When they'd counted the first ballots, she'd been surprised that eight of the jurors had been willing to vote for conviction so quickly.

It was midafternoon now. By this point, each of the 12 knew where the others stood. There had been no formal announcements. But as they sat around the long table, batting questions back and forth, tossing out their thoughts, their comments made it obvious that the "NG"s had been cast by Leif Bouffard, Dorene Cobb, Maytha Schafer and Ruth Wunder. One of these four — Wunder, the seamstress — almost didn't make it to deliberations. She'd been ill during the first week of the trial but had pushed herself to stick it out, explaining to the judge how badly she wanted to be part of this case. She'd told Farnell that this was "a chance of a lifetime."

Now, Wunder was discovering how difficult this rare challenge could be. But she was not about to change her vote just to agree with the majority. A short, soft-spoken woman who chose her words carefully, she was no pushover. Like the others, she had questions about what Lewis had said on the stand. She didn't understand how he could have thrown up in the bathroom and not made a mess. And it bothered her that he had lied so many times. But Wunder did not believe that George's lies proved he was a rapist and a murderer. There was more. Wunder was having trouble accepting some of what she'd heard from the prosecution's expert witnesses. One of them — Joan Wood, the medical examiner — had testified that scrapings had been taken from underneath Karen's fingernails. As she said this, Dr. Wood had smiled.

"Why are you smiling?" asked defense attorney Joseph Ciarciaglino.

"Well, it's just an irony," said Wood. "Somebody back in Germany in about 1801 got a positive sample from fingernail scrapings, so ever since we've all done them. They never have showed anything."

Those words nagged at Wunder, because they did not agree with something she'd seen on TV. She and the other jurors had been asked to put aside whatever notions television had put into their heads. This is not Perry Mason, the lawyers had said. This is real life. But it was not Perry Mason that Wunder was remembering. It was Quincy, the show in which Jack Klugman played a crime-solving coroner. In one episode, as Wunder recalled, Quincy had used fingernail scrapings to identify a murderer. Why then, she asked, was Dr. Wood trying to tell them fingernail scrapings were no good? Was that true? What if Wood was wrong? And if she was wrong about that, was she wrong about anything else? What if all of the "expert witnesses" — on whose shoulders the state had built much of its case — didn't know what they were talking about?

The other jurors listened as Wunder asked some of these questions aloud.

"Maybe we're looking at too much television," one of them said.

Dorene Cobb, the homemaker who helped care for the elderly, had doubts of her own about Lewis' guilt. For one thing, there was that white teddy that was now in evidence. Cobb was convinced that the teddy could not possibly be the one Karen had bought for herself before the murder. This conclusion was shared by most of the jurors — including many who had voted guilty. Unaware of how many hours the lawyers had devoted to fighting about the teddy, the majority had already dismissed it. They had dismissed it for one simple reason: The teddy was a small.

The jurors had never seen a picture of Karen alive. The prosecutors hadn't even tried to show such a photo, because they knew it would have been ruled irrelevant. But photos taken of Karen after the murder were admissible, and so the prosecutors had shown some of those. Having seen those pictures, most of the jurors decided that Karen would have been too big for this teddy. Tonja Dishong, the young woman whom Lewis had given the teddy, had sat in front of them in court. Tonja, they had noted, was extremely thin and small. And yet, she had worn the teddy, hadn't she? Karen, the jurors decided, would have never bought a piece of clothing that would have fit Tonja.

This logic was not so much a victory for the defense as a failure for the state. Because the prosecutors had neglected one point. When Tonja was on the stand, they had not asked her — as she had been asked in her deposition — how the teddy fit. If she'd been asked that, Tonja would have told the jurors that it was the wrong size. It may have been a small, but on her, it was still too big.

The teddy was not the only thing the jurors had dismissed. Even before the first vote, almost all of them had discounted the defense's suggestion that Karen might have willingly had sex with someone in the hours before the murder. To them, the facts — and common sense — showed that Karen had been raped.

Aside from the semen that had been discovered during the autopsy, the jurors also considered that Karen's body had been found half-naked on the floor, not far from a bed on which blood had been found. Obviously, some of the struggle had taken place in the bedroom. There was also the black teddy bunched around Karen's waist. To the jurors, the positioning of her clothing — she'd also been found wearing a white T-shirt — suggested strongly that the killer had forced her to put on the teddy. In addition, Dr. Wood had testified that two "pricking wounds," shallow wounds on the skin, had been found on Karen's chest and neck. Wood had explained that these possibly had been made as the killer lightly pressed the weapon against Karen's skin with just enough force to break it. Greg Blessing believed these marks, one of which had been made in the area of Karen's breasts, were "torture wounds" — more proof of a sexually oriented attack.

Even if Karen had wanted to be unfaithful to David Mackey, taking advantage of the fact that he was out of town — and no evidence had been presented to prove such a possibility — the jurors knew that she would have had little time for it in the hours before the murder. She'd been at work all day at her job as a graphic artist — a new job, one of them noted, where she would have been unlikely to fool around. After work, she'd gone home, moved some belongings into the house, gone to dinner at her friend Neverne Covington's, then left. She'd told Neverne she was tired and wanted to get home.

The jurors also had rejected another major component of the defense's case — the suggestion that Peter Kumble was the real murderer and that Kenneth Kuhar might have been his accomplice outside on the lawn. Few of the jurors seemed to put much stock in this notion. Greg Blessing, for one, said he thought it was nothing more than a defense smoke screen.

A couple of the jurors did wonder how Kumble could have walked onto the front porch the evening after the murder and not seen the broken glass on the front walk or the other signs of the struggle that had been left on the porch. They also wondered about a point Ciarciaglino had made during his closing argument. Kumble, the defense attorney had reminded them, had testified that Karen had invited him over for dinner that night with her and David. Yet when Karen had supposedly made this invitation, she'd known that David was going out of town for several days. This was puzzling enough. Even more puzzling was the note that Kumble had left on one of the cars in the yard that night when he'd stopped by the house. Why, Ciarciaglino had asked, didn't that note make any mention of the alleged dinner invitation? Why didn't his note ask Karen and David what had happened to their dinner together? Some of the jurors thought it was a good question.

Still, there was nothing to prove that either Kumble or Kuhar were at Karen's house that night. There was no evidence to place Kumble inside the house, and Kuhar didn't match the descriptions Lewis himself had given of the man on the lawn.

Bit by bit, the jurors were whittling away at the question before them.


Across the hall, within hearing distance of the buzzer, Karen Gregory's friends and family drifted in and out of a small office.

Kim, Karen's sister, was still angry that Ciarciaglino and Paver had forced her out of the courtroom by listing her as a potential witness. From the start, Kim had been sure this was just a ploy to keep her out of the jury's sight. She'd been sure the defense attorneys would never call her to the stand. In fact, they never did. She sat outside the courtroom the whole time.

Sophia, Karen's mother, had not been kicked out. She sat in court through virtually the entire trial, listening to the testimony, trying to learn the facts of what had happened to her oldest child. Only once had she been asked to leave, and that was when Dr. Wood had testified about the details of Karen's injuries. Even then, Sophia was furious, telling the prosecutors' assistant who'd taken her from the courtroom that she did not intend to budge from her seat again.

Roy and Mark, Karen's brothers, had sat beside Sophia. The two of them arrived midway through the trial after driving from their homes in New York state. Out in the halls, they tried to keep some distance from Lewis and his family. One day, Roy had found himself inside a cramped bathroom, only a couple of feet away from Lewis. Roy didn't want that to happen again. He was afraid of what he might do if he came that close to Lewis a second time. So Roy and Mark developed a system. They'd watch the bathroom, wait for Lewis to come out, then go in.

Like so many others, Mark had studied Lewis carefully during the trial. Now, after hearing so much of the evidence, he was convinced the police had arrested the right man. As far as he was concerned, it was clear that Lewis had treated Karen like garbage — raped her, killed her, then thrown her away. But Mark was not afforded the luxury of seeing Lewis as some monster. It was all too plain that he was a human being.

Mark had a young daughter of his own. Her name was Korey, and she was about the same age as Tiffany Lewis. And like Glenda, Mark's wife was pregnant with their second child. Now, Mark found himself watching Tiffany out in the halls. She reminded him of Korey. She played like her. She ran to her father just like Korey ran to him. Mark stared at Lewis, holding his little girl. He couldn't believe how tenderly Lewis touched her. He couldn't believe that this man — a man whom he was convinced had committed a brutal rape and murder — could love a child so much.

A thought crossed Mark's mind: Just how different are we?

At 5:15 p.m., the buzzer sounded. The jurors had a question. They sent a note to Judge Farnell, asking if they could listen to some of the testimony again. Specifically, they wanted to rehear what Dr. Wood and Lewis had said on the stand — plus the tape of Lewis' final statement to the police. Farnell had the jurors brought back into the courtroom. The court reporter pulled out her notes and began rereading the testimony. She started with Dr. Wood, who had been questioned initially by one of the prosecutors.

Q: Doctor, you've gone through a lot of injuries. Could you please summarize the stab and cutting wounds for the jury? How many total stabbing or cutting wounds did you find on the body of Karen Gregory?

A: There were nine stab wounds to the left — to the right neck, and three cutting wounds, for twelve wounds. There were four stab wounds to the left neck, so that's sixteen. At least two separate actions of cutting wound, seventeen, eighteen. A pricking injury to the skin of the left neck, which was not previously described, it was among those; it's nineteen. The injury on the front of her chest, twenty. And the injury to her hand, twenty-one.

Q: The injury to the hand being the defensive wound that you had described earlier?

A: Yes.

Sophia sat in the audience, listening with Roy and Mark beside her. This time, no one asked her to leave. This time, she heard for herself exactly what Karen had gone through. For years, she had not been able to understand why Karen did not escape her attacker that night. Karen was so strong, so fierce. Why didn't she fight harder?

Now, Sophia understood just how hard Karen did fight.

Q: Based on the number of wounds that you observed and your experience in this field, can you render an opinion as to the minimum amount of time it would have taken to inflict all of these wounds upon Karen Gregory, or to the maximum amount of time?

A: I believe it could have taken five, ten, fifteen minutes. The minimum would probably be two or three minutes.

Sophia thought back to the first time she'd seen Karen and held her. Sophia was lying there in the hospital, and the nurses showed her this tiny child, and sudded suddenly she was terrified. She realized she had no idea what to do with a baby. Maybe I can get up and run away, she'd thought. Maybe I can send her back.

Q: Dr. Wood, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, can you give this jury and the court your opinion as to the cause of death of Karen Gregory?

A: Yes.

Q: And what is that opinion?

A: The cause of death of Karen Gregory was cutting and stabbing wounds to the neck, causing injury to the voice box and to the left outer jugular vein, draining blood from the head. Contributing to her death were multiple blows to the head with lacerations of the scalp and bleeding upon the left surface of the brain.

There was so much blood, Sophia thought. So much blood on that beautiful child's body. Sophia remembered how smooth Karen's skin had been when she was a little girl. She remembered brushing Karen's long brown hair. Karen always had been a bit vain about that, her mother recalled. She'd always been proud of how silky her hair was.

The court reporter had been reading for about an hour when the defense attorneys asked to approach the bench. There was a problem: One of the jurors appeared to have fallen asleep. It was Tim Green, the young McDonald's cook who had been working the late nights. Farnell had been glaring at him. If the lawyers saw him or anyone else sleeping again, the judge said, they should approach the bench. For the moment, though, they were to continue.

"He'll perk up," said Farnell.

It took several hours for the jurors to rehear everything they'd asked for. They'd wanted to listen again to Dr. Wood's testimony for several reasons. Dorene Cobb, one of the four who were voting not guilty, was still thinking about the rape charge. Though she thought Karen probably had been raped, Cobb wanted to hear again what Dr. Wood said about the semen and the "pricking wounds." Meanwhile, Cobb and the others wanted to rehear Lewis' last statement to the police and his testimony in court so they could compare the two stories, side by side. Now, that was exactly what happened. First they listened to Lewis, on the tape, answering the detectives' questions. Then they listened to the court reporter, reading back what Lewis had said as he answered questions on the witness stand. Quietly, they noted the inconsistencies.

First, on the tape:

"I wasn't even barefoot that night."

Then, in court:

"So you were barefoot, then, is that correct?"

"Yes, sir."


"There wasn't any lights on in the house."


"When I got there, I noticed a little bit of light inside the house. It was a faint light."


"I saw her laying there with her throat cut open."


"I couldn't tell what type of injuries she had."


"I looked, and I saw her laying on the floor. I didn't do anything else."


"What did you do then after looking at her and seeing this blood?"

"I started to get sick, and I ran into what was the bathroom then, and I threw up."

Finally, shortly before 10 p.m., they'd heard everything. Back into the jury room they went. To many of them, it seemed even clearer now that the latest story from Lewis was only another lie. But others weren't convinced.

Ruth Wunder kept going through it in her mind. If Lewis was telling the truth now, if he had really gone into that house to help, only to realize that he would be suspected, then she could understand why he would have initially denied being there. Furthermore, it had occurred to her that, once Lewis lied, he had not lied very well. The way he'd kept changing his stories reminded her of someone who didn't know how to lie because he normally told the truth. Could that kind of person, she asked herself, be capable of murder?

One of the other women on the jury had been struck by something as they'd listened again to Lewis on the tape, telling the police about the alleged man on the lawn. Lewis had said that the man was about 5-8, maybe taller (in an earlier description, he'd said the man was about 6-2) with wavy hair that appeared auburn in color.

"Did you notice his description?" said the juror. "It was almost like he was describing himself."

They talked on for a half-hour or so. Greg Blessing suggested they take another vote and see if they were any closer to a consensus. He borrowed the pocketknife again, cut up another sheet of paper, passed around the ballots. The hours of deliberations and rehearing testimony, it turned out, had not changed anybody's mind. Again, the tally was eight to four. The same people — Bouffard, Cobb, Schafer and Wunder — were still voting not guilty.


Shortly before 11 p.m., they sent a message to the judge that they were ready to stop for the night. This did not mean, however, that they were going home. It had already been explained to the jurors that they would be sequestered as long as they were deliberating. Reservations had been made for them at the Davis Bros. Motor Lodge, the same motel where the lawyers, the witnesses _ as well as George and Glenda Lewis — had been staying. The jurors had brought overnight bags.

Before they were driven to the motel, Judge Farnell gave them a few more instructions. Until they returned the next morning, he said, they were not to discuss the case or form any fixed opinions about Lewis' guilt or innocence. And though their motel rooms were equipped with TVs, they were on their honor not to watch them. There was one thing more. To make sure they didn't discuss the case with any outsiders, the phones in their rooms would be cut off by the motel switchboard.

"All right," Farnell said. "No questions? Everybody satisfied with what the situation is and what we're going to do?"

The jurors nodded.

Tim Green couldn't sleep. Earlier in the day, he'd had trouble staying awake in court. Now, relaxing inside his motel room, he had trouble dozing off. Looking for something to do, he turned on his room TV and found a movie. It was a comedy, Going Berserk.

Other jurors also were finding it hard to fall asleep. Dorene Cobb lay in her bed, thinking about the case. She was one of those still voting not guilty, and she found herself praying, asking God to show her what to do. She didn't know if George Lewis was guilty or not. She kept wavering, back and forth. But she didn't want to spend the rest of her life wondering if she'd made a mistake.

Like the other three voting not guilty, Cobb was a parent. She knew she was not supposed to be swayed by emotion. But she could not help harboring maternal feelings toward Lewis. She found it hard to believe that someone so nice and clean-cut could be guilty. He was out on bond, wasn't he? Didn't that mean he could be trusted? Plus, when Lewis was testifying, Cobb thought she'd detected something in his face — something wistful in his eyes. He reminded her of a boy who knows a secret and wants to share it with the grown-ups. To her, it seemed as though Lewis had wanted to help the police by telling them what he knew about the murder. But he couldn't tell them everything, at least not at first. The man on the lawn threatened him, he'd said. The man knew where he lived.

There were so many unanswered questions pulling Cobb in opposite directions. She thought about the night Lewis had walked into Karen's house and saw her lying on the floor. He hadn't called the police, he said, because he thought he'd be accused of the murder. But if he was so afraid, Cobb thought, couldn't he have called anonymously? Then there was the murder weapon. If Lewis was guilty, what had happened to the murder weapon? Why had the police never found it?

Cobb lay in bed, thinking through the night. She prayed, and went over the points, one by one, and then prayed some more. It was close to 5 a.m. when she turned her mind to the footprints. She thought about the trail of bloody footprints that were found on the hallway carpet — the ones that the technician, Timothy Whitfield, had sprayed with Luminol. The jurors had seen the videotape of the Luminol testing. The quality of the tape was poor, and it had been difficult for the jurors to see much. But they were able to make out a few prints, glowing in the dark, and they heard Whitfield describing others. If what he said was correct, there were at least a dozen footprints on that carpet.

On the stand, Lewis had said he'd gone in, seen Karen's body, run to the bathroom and then run out. But if those footprints on the carpet were his, how could he be telling the truth? There were too many prints. They were all through that hallway, where so much of the struggle had taken place. Whoever left the footprints, Cobb thought, had obviously done more than run into the bathroom and run out. Was it Lewis? Were those footprints his?

In the opening statements, the prosecution had pointed out that some of the footprints — it was actually just one — had been measured and had been found to be "consistent" with the size of Lewis' feet. Later, outside the jury's hearing, Judge Farnell had ruled that the measurement was inconclusive. They were dealing with a liquid — blood — spreading across the fabric of a carpet. Under those conditions, it was hard to measure precisely. Considering that fact, the judge had ruled that Whitfield could not tell the jurors anything about the size of the footprints. So the jurors had been left in the dark on that point.

But Cobb remembered something. All of the bloody prints had been made by someone who was barefoot. How many people, she asked herself, could have been walking through that house without any shoes? True, Karen was barefoot that night. But she couldn't have left those prints. The jurors had checked. Earlier that day, during the deliberations, they'd looked at the photos of her body lying on that hallway carpet, and they'd seen for themselves that there was no blood on the bottoms of her feet. That left Lewis. They knew he had blood on the bottom of at least one foot _ the foot that left the print in the bathroom. But at first he denied it. That bothered Cobb. Even though she wanted to believe Lewis, it bothered her that the man had denied he was barefoot until he was cornered and forced to admit otherwise.

Suddenly, Cobb knew. Her doubts were gone.

Outside, it was almost dawn.


It was 9:30 a.m. when they assembled in the jury room to begin their second day of deliberations. They'd talked for only a few minutes when they decided to take another vote to see if anybody had had a change of heart during the night. Dorene Cobb quietly wrote a "G" on her ballot, folded it and handed it in with the others. She sat there, not saying a word, as Greg Blessing tallied the vote. A headache pounded dully behind her temples.

Blessing finished counting. The vote was nine to three.

Now, only Bouffard, Schafer and Wunder were holding out for acquittal. The other nine tried to stay calm. The deliberations had been polite and orderly to this point. But the strain was starting to show. Schafer announced that she was going to stick with her vote of not guilty. After all, Lewis' future was at stake. It was important, she told herself, to be absolutely positive before she voted guilty. Yes, George had lied and lied and lied. But, to Schafer, that didn't prove he was a murderer.

"You can go over this as many times as you want," she said. "But I'm not going to change my mind."

With that, one of the men was ready to quit. "You might as well call the judge," he said. "There's no sense in us sitting here all day."

They didn't quit. They tried to talk it through. The ones who were voting guilty pointed to the footprints on the carpet. To many, it seemed clear that the prints had been made by Lewis. Didn't that prove, they said, that he was guilty? Weren't there too many prints to match his latest story?

Schafer and Wunder weren't sure there were as many footprints as the others thought. They'd all watched the videotape of the Luminol being sprayed onto the carpet. They'd heard Whitfield, the technician, noting each footprint as it glowed in the dark. But the tape was murky. Schafer hadn't been able to see many of the footprints Whitfield was talking about. Wunder had made out only two or three. To accept that there were so many footprints on that carpet required her to take Whitfield's word for it. Wunder didn't feel comfortable with that. She was still thinking about her recollections of Quincy and her doubts about the expertise of the state's witnesses.

They unrolled the carpet on the floor of the jury room. They tried to recall where the footprints were found and which way they were pointed and how close they were to the bathroom. Finally, they decided they needed to view the Luminol tape again, along with the videotape that the medical examiner's office had made of the interior of the crime scene. That way, they'd see the entire layout of the house — the hallway, the bathroom, everything — just as it was when Karen's body was discovered.

At 11:15 a.m., the jurors were brought into the courtroom to view the two tapes again. This time, Maytha Schafer saw the footprints. Sitting there in the dark, she found the proof she'd lacked before. There were more footprints than she remembered. Too many, she told herself, for Lewis to be telling the truth. It's all just another lie, she thought. He was inside that house a lot longer than he'd said.

At 12:26 p.m., they finished watching the tapes. They returned to the jury room and had lunch. By this point, Wunder was wavering. Despite her doubts, she'd decided to accept Whitfield's word. Like Schafer, she was finally convinced that those bloody footprints were all over the carpet. But she had a few more questions. She wanted to think some more. Schafer watched Wunder carefully as they went on talking. After spending so much time together, Schafer knew that Wunder's face grew red when she was upset. It was bright red now.

Blessing said he thought they should take another vote. Again, the slips of paper were cut, handed out, marked, folded, handed back. Again, Blessing read each vote aloud. Wunder sat beside him, silently adding the tally to herself. She heard Blessing read out the same word, over and over.


That was eight.









There was a hush around the table. Blessing handed the ballots to a couple of the other jurors. He asked them to make sure he hadn't missed any votes for acquittal. He looked around the table.

"Did anybody vote not guilty?"

No one answered. He picked up the stack of verdict forms and found the one for conviction of first-degree murder and the one for conviction of sexual battery. He signed the bottom of both sheets.

"That's it," someone said. "We did our job."

Blessing stood up and pushed the buzzer. It was 2:21 p.m.

The door to the jury room opened, and the jurors walked out in single file. Lewis studied their faces as they shuffled into the jury box. George's friends and family sat a few feet away in the audience along with Karen's friends and family. All of them had been allowed into the courtroom now.

"Mr. Blessing," said Judge Farnell. "You have a verdict?"

"Yes, we do."

"Hand it to the bailiff."

The bailiff then handed the verdict forms to the judge, who read them silently, and passed them to the clerk, a kind-looking man with glasses and thick white hair. Karen's brother Roy thought how strange it was that such a nice old man would be the one, after all this time, to deliver the news.

"Publish the verdict," said Farnell.

Roy stopped breathing. Everything around him seemed to be suspended.

"The State of Florida vs. George Alan Lewis," said the clerk, reading aloud from the first sheet. "We, the jury, find the defendant, George Alan Lewis, guilty of murder in the first degree. So say we all, dated this 14th of June 1987, Gregory H. Blessing, Foreperson."

The clerk turned to the second sheet and began reading. But his words were drowned out. Glenda Lewis already had begun screaming.

It was not one scream but several, each running into the next. The sound came from deep inside her and filled the courtroom. She stood up. Her body was shaking. Her hands were curled and raised to her face. People were rushing toward her. They half-walked her, half-carried her from the room. At the defense table, George Lewis sat with a sick expression, watching her go.

Farnell stared straight ahead. He asked the defense attorneys if they wanted the jurors to be polled individually to make sure all of them had voted guilty.

"Yes, sir," said Ciarciaglino.

"Poll the jury," said Farnell.

The clerk turned to Tim Green in the far seat in the back row.

"Mr. Green, is this your verdict?"

"Yes, sir."

Then to Elizabeth Carter, sitting beside Green.

"Mrs. Carter, is this your verdict?"

"Yes, sir."

Down the rows the clerk went, asking each juror the same question. As each gave the same answer, Lewis looked at them in disbelief. When all 12 had spoken, he closed his eyes, bowed his head, leaned forward over the table with his shoulders hunched together. Glenda's screams could still be heard, even though she was in another room, across the hall, with the door shut. The sound just kept going.

Karen's mother turned to Roy and grabbed his arm.

"Those are Karen's last screams," said Sophia.

Glenda's friends stayed with her in the room across the hall. She was still crying out.

"They don't know him. I know him. I know, but it doesn't matter what we think. He didn't do it. They were sleeping in there. I just want to see him. What are they going to do?"

Amid all the confusion and the crying and the lights and TV cameras, a pregnant woman fainted in the hall. She was a Lewis friend, and as she fell, a man caught her, picked her up and carried her toward the room where Glenda had been taken.

"Open the door!" he said, the woman still cradled in his arms. "Open the door!"

David Mackey, who was out in the hall by now, ran to a pay phone and called for an ambulance. If there was irony in this — if it was strange for him to rush to help a friend of Lewis', after no one had called the police to help Karen — David did not have time to think about it. Quickly, he made the call, then went to the room of Lewis' friends to say the paramedics were on their way. As he stepped inside, people began yelling, asking what he thought he was doing in there. Quietly, he stepped back outside. A few seconds later, when they realized he was only trying to help, someone came out to thank him.


"All right," Farnell said. "We have re-convened in chambers now at 2:52 by the clock."

The bailiffs brought Lewis into the judge's chambers, away from the courtroom spectators.

"Let the record reflect," Farnell said, "that the defendant is now present."

Now that Lewis had been found guilty of first-degree murder, they would proceed with what is known as the "penalty phase." On Wednesday, the jurors would return to court to hear evidence on which sentence they should recommend. By law, there were only two choices: death in the electric chair, or life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Sitting in chambers, a few feet from Lewis, prosecutor Richard Mensh announced that the state would seek the maximum penalty. He did not use the words "death sentence." Just "maximum penalty."

Across the table, Lewis looked over in horror.

His eyes were red and blurry. He turned them toward the window. It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining. Trees outside on the courthouse lawn were swaying in the breeze.

From the next room came the sound of one of the prosecutor's voices. It was Beverly Andrews. She was on the phone, spreading the news.

"You hear we got a verdict? Guilty as charged."

Ruth Wunder cried all the way home.

Dorene Cobb walked into her house and sat on the porch and enjoyed the evening air. It was nice, she thought, to be out in the open. It was nice to be able to get up and walk outside if she wanted.

Karen's mother, exhausted by now, told reporters how bad she felt for the Lewis family.

"I am a mother like his mother," said Sophia. "I don't think I could ever sign a death paper for him."

Glenda Lewis was still crying hysterically when she left the courthouse. She was led out, surrounded by friends who shielded her from the photographers.

George Lewis was taken to the Polk County jail, which was only a couple of blocks away. He was booked and told to empty his pockets and take off his clothes. The jail officers took and made an inventory of his tie, his shirt, pants, jacket, belt, watch, wallet and his wedding ring, plus one Montgomery Ward credit card and $9 he'd been carrying. In place of the other clothes they gave him a jail uniform.

Dinner at the jail that night was corned beef, boiled cabbage, boiled potatoes, carrots, bread, iced tea and mincemeat pie. The records do not show whether Lewis ate any of it. Concerned that he might try to kill himself, jail officials ordered that he be kept on a suicide watch. When it came time to decide whether he should be ordered to die, they wanted to make sure he was still alive.

A Cry in the Night, Part 9: We, The Jury 04/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2008 1:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours