Hearing Thursday to set new trial date for Abaroa

jporter@newsobserver.comJune 5, 2013 

— A juror convinced of Raven Abaroa’s guilt says the lone dissenter in the murder trial “reneged on his promise” to base his verdict on circumstantial evidence in the case.

A hearing will be held Thursday in Durham County Superior Court to set the date for Abaroa’s retrial.

In an interview, Alphonso Hayes, a retired clinical nurse, said the dissenting juror gave two reasons for doubting Abaroa murdered his pregnant wife Janet in their home in 2005.

“One is that – this was his logic – he would rather see a guilty man go free than see a not-guilty man do time in prison,” Hayes said. “The second thing is that if the hard drive was found at this late date, what else could have been found?”

Hayes was referring to Janet Abaroa’s work computer hard-drive, discovered in a locked file cabinet at the Durham Police Department three weeks into the trial. An analyst found flirtatious e-mails between Janet Abaroa and a former boyfriend that the defense argued showed she was a free-willed, independent person, not someone who cowered in her husband’s shadow, as it said the prosecution portrayed her.

Efforts to reach the dissenting juror Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Raven Abaroa’s trial lasted six weeks and is estimated to have cost more than $150,000, according to numbers compiled by the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.

A criminal case in Superior Court costs $6,216 a day, the AOC website says; the figure does not include jury and expert witness payments or courthouse expenses, which vary by county.

Hayes said Raven Abaroa’s lifestyle and pattern of behavior convinced him of his guilt.

“No one else could have done it,” he said. “No one else had a motive. And no one had the opportunity.”

Hayes said Raven Abaroa’s orderly personality also gave him away.

Janet Abaroa “was killed, and the house was not touched. … There was nothing out of place,” he said. “I think if someone else had come in there, … Janet, as athletic as she was, I think she would have put up a struggle. And there was no struggle; there was nothing moved around in the room.”

Juror Charles Ebert, a librarian, agrees.

“To me what it hinged on was that there was just no credible way to put another adult in that house on that night,” he said.

Both jurors were unimpressed with the defense.

“Their idea was dependent on sympathy, on showing pictures of how he was a caring father and stuff like that,” Hayes said. “You know, all this mushy-looking stuff which has nothing to do with him killing the girl. He really didn’t have a defense.”

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson instructed jurors to treat circumstantial evidence the same as eyewitness testimony and other direct evidence. Potential jurors had been asked whether they could do that, and one who said she could not was dismissed.

After twice admonishing jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of a guilty verdict to reach unanimity, Hudson declared a mistrial Friday.

Porter: 919-593-7884

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