Former Juror Talks About Wright Case

By Ben Dunsmoor

The jury was emotional during the decision Thursday. It took the group of eleven women and one man longer than normal to return to the courtroom because the judge gave them time to compose themselves. KELOLAND News spoke with a juror who was involved in a death penalty case 15 years ago about the emotions experienced during a trial.

Paula Jones sat on the Donald Moeller jury in 1992, when the death row inmate was convicted of raping and murdering a nine-year-old girl. Jones says being a part of that jury continues to have an impact on her life even 15 years later.

Paula Jones has sat in the same seat as jurors who are now deciding what the future holds for convicted killer Daphne Wright.

Paula Jones says, “I’m not sure there’s anything that prepares you for that.”

Daphne Wright showed more emotion after the verdict was read than any other time in this case. Jones says the verdict is not only tough for the defendant, but also the jurors, especially when they must review pieces of graphic evidence.

Jones says, “It is very emotional and obviously the trial that we were dealing with, the murder of a child, that made it even harder.”

In a death penalty case, the verdict is only half the battle; Jones says the penalty phase can be even tougher on a juror.

Jones says, “The focus is different because now you are recommending the fate of the person by your verdict you said committed the crime.”

Jones, who now works as the Yankton County Auditor, says she doesn’t regret sitting in the jury box and sentencing Donald Moeller to death. But she says that experience, and the tough decisions she had to make, will stay with her the rest of her life.

Jones says, “You knew you were never going to be totally the same cause I don’t think an experience like that can do anything but leave you changed in some manner.”

Jones says she followed the Daphne Wright case because of her prior experience as a juror. She says one thing that helped her deal with the emotions after the case was meeting with the rest of the jury, the sheriff and state’s attorney informally to talk about their thoughts and feelings.

(( Source:  KELOLAND TV ))

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