After 10 hours of deliberating, the jury has returned a verdict in the Dharun Ravi case, convicting him of 15 criminal charges. Ravi was found guilty of invasion of privacy, witness/evidence tampering, hindering apprehension and bias intimidation on all counts, except on the count that he intended to intimidate Clementi because of his sexual orientation in the first webcam incident on Sept. 19th 2010. Based on the evidence presented in court, I don’t believe prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ravi is guilty of bias intimidation. Still, jurors found him guilty, a conviction I feel they found by going beyond evidence presented to them in court.
One juror, Lynn Audet, says the jury convicted Ravi of bias intimidation because “a reasonable person would have closed it and ended it there, not tweeted about it.” she said “To attempt a second time, is what changed my mind.”
Yet, even the alternate juror in the case believed Ravi should have been acquitted of bias intimidation charges. “Whatever (Ravi) did was stupid, but I don’t think he ever had any intention of intimidating (Clementi),’’ James Downey said. “I think that scenario could have happened 100 different ways, whether he had a straight roommate who had a girlfriend over … there are 100 scenarios where he could have been goofing around and turning the camera on and it had nothing to do with somebody being gay.’’
This is a coup for the prosecution because not only were they able to convince the jury that Ravi intended to intimidate Clementi because he was gay, but also that Clementi felt intimidated by Ravi’s actions. I will admit that was surprising to me, because as the trial unfolded, nearly all evidence of how Clementi felt and what he said at the time was barred by the judge as hearsay. Jurors had to take a leap in deciding how Clementi felt and while the judge tried his best to keep Clementi’s suicide out of the courtroom, jurors could not ignore this fact. They clearly decided that Ravi’s actions were to blame, in part, for Clementi’s suicide.
“We’ll never know exactly what he was feeling,” Audet said. “I can only assume.” Yet jurors are not supposed to ASSUME, they are supposed to be convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was feeling intimidated.
Jurors say they determined he felt intimidated based on Clementi’s complaint to his resident assistant and his online request for a room change, as well as the fact that he saved screen shots of Mr. Ravi’s more offensive online posts, and viewed Ravi’s Twitter feed 38 times in the two days before killing himself.
“It was pretty hard to think about Tyler, because he wasn’t present to give his thoughts,” said juror Kashad Leverett. “But in the evidence that was provided, it showed that he believed he was being intimidated because of his sexual orientation.”
In their closing statement prosecutors urged jurors to put themselves in Clementi’s shoes to figure out how he felt, telling them, “his private sexual activities have been exposed. What do you think he’s thinking? You don’t think that he was intimidated by learning that information? Fearful, embarrassed? He’d been exposed.”
Yet, Clementi was not there to tell jurors how Ravi’s actions made him feel and I believe jurors overstepped their boundaries in determining, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he felt intimidated.
It was a short-sighted decision by Ravi and his attorneys to turn down a plea deal and let the case go to a jury because had he accepted a plea deal he would have avoided jail time. Now, he’s facing ten years in prison. He is set to be sentenced May 21st, but I’m betting the judge will be lenient on sentencing as this is a complex case. He may actually allow Ravi to remain free on bail pending an appeal. There is a real question here about whether or not the evidence presented in the case supports the jury’s guilty verdict and I’m sure the court will want the Court of Appeal to review the case, which could take up to two years.