What it’s like as a juror on a high-profile murder case

Updated: Apr. 25, 2023 at 9:50 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A recent survey says 27 percent of all adults have served on a jury. So if you haven’t yet, there’s about a one in four chance you could be next.

In part one of an I-team investigation. 23 News Anchor Mike Garrigan had the rare opportunity to talk exclusively to a juror from not one, but arguably the two most high profile murder trials in the region the past year.

“Once I realized the impact that this was going to have on the community, I kind of wanted to serve,” said Waukesha Parade Murder Trial Juror Scott. Scott wanted us not to mention his last name but he also went by, “Juror number 6″

“I was like oh my gosh this guys life is dependent on what we decide,” said Winnebago juror Tess Luchini. “So it was a bit overwhelming.”

Luchini had never before served on a jury, until this Winnebago mother of two was selected to be on a jury of 12 for one of the most high profile federal trials the Stateline has seen.

“I mean I had no idea Mike, how many people are involved for a case like this. Oh my god it’s nothing like TV, absolutely nothing like TV,” said Luchini

Tess and 11 of her peers were to decide the fate of Floyd Brown, the downstate Illinois man charged with killing McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner at a Rockford motel in 2019.

“I knew a little because that day I happened to be working. And where it happened it was down the street and we actually had to go on lockdown because he was at large,” said Luchini.

But Luchini said she didn’t know much more than that. And she did enough to convince the judge and attorneys that she could be an impartial juror.

“I’m a firm believer that there’s always two sides to a story so you have to go in there with an open mind,” said Luchini.

And after a week-and-a-half trial, it took just two-and-a-half-hours for the jury to produce a verdict, finding Brown guilty of 2nd degree murder.

“It was pretty tough for the first couple of months knowing that I, that we decided this man’s fate,”said Luchini. “But you know we all make choices in life and he made the wrong one unfortunately. "

From the biggest trial in the Stateline in 2022 to the biggest in the Midwest.

Waukesha parade murder suspect Darrell Brooks defended himself, which made it an incredible experience for Scott as juror number six.

“I didn’t have any expectations, this being my first time so this could’ve been normal. But you could tell it wasn’t normal,” said Scott.

The strange happenings began even before the trial did, when each side had ten strikes to whittle the jury down to 12 plus two alternates.

“He wanted to strike the entire jury panel, all 24 of us,” said Scott. “So he ended up moving to a different court room so they pulled out a random bingo wheel and they pulled out ten people for his strikes.”

Scott said Judge Jennifer Dorrow did a phenomenal job of keeping the courtroom in as much order as could be had.

“I felt bad for her because he just went rogue and did whatever he wanted and he wasn’t about to listen. It was this power struggle,” said Scott

The jury was sequestered during deliberations, which went about three hours over two days; before convicting brooks on all 76 counts, including 6 counts of first degree intentional homicide.

“everbody really had a lot of input. Everybody kind of saw each as equals. Everybody agreed. It was pretty straight forward,” said Scott.

Both Scott and Tess said one of the hardest things about serving on a jury was not being able to talk about the case to any fellow jurors until closing arguments were made.

“You know you are listening to all this stuff and after you’re done you want to talk to somebody about it,” said Luchini. “Did you get this or did you hear that or what did you think of this. You can’t say a single thing.”

“To finally get in that deliberation room and finally being able to release the feelings that you have pent up over the past four or five weeks and to be able to actually talk about it. That was a great relief,” said Scott.

Spending so much time with each other without being able to talk about the case; things like family, life dreams, and personal triumphs and tribulations became the topic of conversation.

“We developed a lot of great bonds,” said Scott. “A lot of inside jokes. And we have a little contact group and we still keep in contact today.”

“I saw a fellow juror in Woodman’s and it was like we were long lost friends,” said Luchini “We like hugged and started talking about how upsetting it had been it wasn’t easy emotionally afterwards. I really did connect with a lot of them. You absolutely have to because it’s not an easy thing to do.”

Both Tess and Scott said they were part of a diverse jury ranging in age from the mid-twenties to mid-seventies.

In part two, Wednesday at 10, prominent local attorney gives us incredible insight on what they look for in selecting a juror. Also why the one question you never want to ask him is how to get out of jury duty.