Originally Published: December 8, 2010 10:02 p.m.
RESCOTT - If not for a mistrial being declared late last month, some of the jurors who served on the Steven DeMocker murder trial say the defendant might have been found not guilty based on the evidence presented to that point, even though they think he's guilty.
Yavapai County prosecutors accuse DeMocker, a 56-year-old former stockbroker, of bludgeoning his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy, with a golf club at her home in Williamson Valley on July 2, 2008, after an apparent dispute over money following their divorce.
The mistrial came when DeMocker's lead defense attorneys, Larry Hammond and John Sears, recused themselves from the trial in late November. Their reason for recusing themselves has not been released to the public, though the action followed the prosecution's contention that DeMocker authored an anonymous e-mail, sent to Sears and county prosecutor Joseph C. Butner III, implicating other parties in the murder.
DeMocker remains in the Camp Verde jail, unable to post his bond, which is at least $1 million. Even if he could afford bail on the first-degree murder charge, a separate fraud charge pertaining to the anonymous e-mail would keep him in custody. Late last month, the county attorney's office charged DeMocker with soliciting former girlfriend Renee Girard and his daughter, Charlotte, to e-mail the phony tip about other suspects.
In another twist this past Friday, Butner filed a state's motion requesting that the trial's first judge, Thomas Lindberg, not sit on the bench for the retrial. Butner alleges Lindberg, who became ill with brain cancer during the trial and was replaced by Judge Warren Darrow, conducted several closed-door meetings with defense attorneys when he was not present.
DeMocker juror Kathryn Bell, 57, said the jurors liked Lindberg but that they did not appreciate being "in the jury room more than we were out of it."
"With the trial being on-again, off-again, and then they turn around and let you go home (on several days), that was, to me, the most frustrating part," she said.
Juror Dan Main agreed.
"I think there was only two times that we actually did the full week's schedule," Main said. "Other than that, there was literally days or partial days where we were dismissed because (the attorneys) had points of law to discuss."
If DeMocker's guilt or innocence had come to a jury vote at the time of the mistrial, Bell said she thinks jurors would have found him not guilty because of a lack of evidence. She said it was troubling that the law enforcement investigators who testified did not find DeMocker's fingerprints or blood at the scene.
Juror Hans Sommer, 67, said that since the jury never heard from the defense, it would have been a tough call - although DeMocker appeared guilty based on his actions.
"With everything he did, it leads to one thing: toward his wrongdoings," Sommer said. "If somebody was not guilty, he wouldn't have done all that crap."
Main said he waffled back and forth a couple times about DeMocker's guilt.
"I look at it like this: Could you place him at the scene?" Main said. "We knew (Kennedy) was murdered and we didn't dispute any information (the prosecution) gave us. That was all a fact. We knew he was in the area within miles of the house. But if you can't prove he was in the neighborhood, it's going to be real tough."
Without hearing the rest of the prosecution's case and the entirety of the defense's case, Main was conflicted. However, he said, crime scene investigators could have done a much better job of collecting evidence, which put the prosecution at a disadvantage.
"The bottom line for most of us was we couldn't make a decision because we didn't have all of the information," he said. "It was almost like we weren't even a third of the way through the process and we didn't know what we were going to do."
But, Bell added, if there were enough circumstantial evidence against DeMocker, such as the bike tracks found behind Kennedy's home and the cuts to his arm and legs after the murder, to warrant a guilty decision, the jury would have gone in that direction.
"I definitely feel that he's guilty, and I did so then, but to put a man in jail for the rest of his life - I couldn't have done it with the evidence given up to that point," she said. "I have heard since (the trial ended) that some (circumstantial) evidence wasn't allowed."
Bell said if the prosecution "can get the evidence in that they need in, that he'll be (found) guilty."
She explained that the prosecution allegedly had more computer documents of DeMocker's that the jury did not see, and more than 100 witnesses had yet to testify.
Former jurors, including Main and Sommer, now fear the case may be retried outside of Yavapai County so that DeMocker can get a fair trial because of the media publicity surrounding it.
"It's going to be real tough because it's been in the papers and on the news so much," Main said. "If this trial goes to a different county, I don't know who would prosecute it."