Maestas juror says she erred


A juror who voted in favor of the death penalty for child killer Beau Maestas was so racked with guilt and regret, she sought counseling and then began communicating with the incarcerated 24-year-old.

Rachel Poore said Monday that she begged Maestas for his forgiveness, told him she planned to have a tattoo inked on her body with his name and sent him a sketch of a dove, which she said represented peace and freedom.

Then Poore contacted Maestas' attorneys and made claims of jury misconduct in the deliberation room.

"The decision I came to was wrong," an emotional Poore said on the stand. "I shouldn't have made that decision."

Poore's claims resulted in 11 of the 12 jurors, along with Maestas, appearing before District Judge Donald Mosley on Monday. The focus was on whether the jury forewoman made inappropriate comments that swayed fellow jurors to unanimously vote for the death penalty.

Maestas pleaded guilty in 2005 to stabbing 3-year-old Kristyanna Cowan to death after a minor methamphetamine deal with the girl's parents went bad. Cowen's sister, Brittney Bergeron Himel, now 16, was left paralyzed during the attack, which occurred while their mother and her boyfriend were out gambling.

Maestas' sister, Monique Maestas, was sentenced to life in prison for her role in the stabbings.

Poore told Mosley on Monday that during the jury's initial vote, 10 members favored the death penalty for Beau Maestas and two voted for a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Several other jurors confirmed that account.

Then the jury forewoman, Tina Ransom, intervened, Poore said. Ransom, an emergency dispatcher in Boulder City, told jurors that a life sentence without the possibility of parole does not always end up that way. According to Poore, Ransom said she had seen defendants who received a life sentence without parole walking around Boulder City with an electronic monitor around their ankles.

In a sworn affidavit, Poore told attorneys that Ransom said that because of her position as a dispatcher, she had "special knowledge" about the sentencing of inmates and that Maestas would "undoubtedly be released" if he was sentenced to life without a possibility of parole.

When a second poll was taken minutes after the comments, the jury voted unanimously for the death penalty.

Poore said she did not recall those exact phrases that an attorney included in her affidavit. Maestas' attorney, Tony Sgro, cautioned Poore when she interrupted both attorneys with affirmative answers as if she was trying to please the lawyers.

"You voted for death and now you regret it," Sgro said. "You do not want to perpetuate fraud on the court."

The jury could have chosen death, life without the possibility of parole, life with the possibility of parole or 100 years with parole considered after 40 years.

Ransom denied making the statements during deliberations. She said she and other jurors offered their opinions on what the various sentences meant during an informal discussion. Ransom said she never mentioned her job or indicated that her profession would give her insight into sentences or how parole boards operate.

"I don't deal with that particular part of things," Ransom said. "I said life did not appear to be life. In general, people get time for good behavior. I didn't know it to be a fact. Now it has turned into something else."

Ransom's reference to electronic bracelets stemmed from a news story about a man arrested for a fatal stabbing who was released from jail prior to his sentence.

The majority of jurors called in Monday confirmed Ransom made the comments. Four jurors remembered very little about the deliberations that took place two years ago. Another juror said she recalled someone discussing being involved in law enforcement, but did not remember specific statements made by Ransom.

Mosley is scheduled to render his decision on whether Maestas should be resentenced on Dec. 19.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

 

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