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Juror From Rayquan Borum Trial Reflects On His Experience

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John D. Simmons / Charlotte Observer
A Mecklenburg County jury found Rayquan Borum guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Justin Carr.

It’s been a little over a week since the Rayquan Borum trial concluded. After an extensive four-week trial, the jury found Borum guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Justin Carr.

One of the jurors, Shaun Pickford, reached out to WFAE’s Sarah Delia to discuss the trial after its conclusion.

“It’s not an experience a lot of people get to go through and hopefully I’ve made some connections through it with the other jurors, getting to know other people who come from other walks of life,” Pickford told Delia. “The weight of how heavy it was and how big of a decision 12 random people are asked to make — that I don’t think will ever go away.”

Carr was a Charlotte man who was shot and killed during the second night of protests that erupted in the city after the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in September 2016.

[Related Content: Murder Trial Of Rayquan Borum, Death Of Justin Carr Explained]

The jury selection for the trial was a lengthy one and deliberations lasted for days.

The jury itself was fairly diverse: Four African American women, one Hispanic woman, one Indian woman, two white women and four white males. Pickford is one of those white males. The demographic that represented both Justin Carr and Rayquan Borum was missing — African American males. Pickford said that was apparent, especially when it came to how a white male might have different life experiences with the police than a black male.

Shaun Pickford: You know a jury is supposed judge by a jury of his peers. And there was no direct peer to Mr. Borum on the jury in terms of demographics and gender.

Sarah Delia: You just answered my next question which was going to be, was he really judged by a jury of his peers? And it sounds like no.

Pickford: I think we did the best that we could and wanted to take everything into account, but there was no one on the jury — just by virtue of there not being an African American male — that would have had as similar of a life experience as he did. We really tried to keep that in mind. And several of the jurors did a great job of bringing up their own perspectives that could shed light on that but yeah, I think that voice was still missing.

Delia: Do you think it’s possible that if there had been at least one or more African American males on the jury, do you think the verdict could have been different?

Pickford: My gut is probably not. You know there was no “gotcha” evidence, if you will, but there was so much other evidence that made it so that any other alternative seemed impossible — or at least really unlikely. The strongest evidence was his phone calls from the jail and we based a lot of decisions on that.

And so even though jurors had different opinions on different things — that weighed heavy on everyone no matter which race or gender any of the jurors were. We kept coming back to that and saying, well he said this, he admitted this to his friend.

Sarah Delia: And these are calls where he had just been arrested and he’s saying things like, they got me on camera, it’s all over.

Pickford: Right. I think if we had had an African American male on the jury, I don’t think the verdict would have been that different. I think the conversations would have been different.

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Credit John D. Simmons / Charlotte Observer
Justin Carr's mother Vivian Carr testifies during the trial.

Delia: The Carr family was present in the courtroom every day of the trial, including Carr’s mother Vivian. Pickford said their presence in the room was hard to ignore, especially when graphic photos and videos where shown of Justin Carr’s injuries.

Pickford: And there were several times that we looked over to them. I know I did that a lot, especially when some of the videos were being played that showed kind of Justin’s last moments. We all had a lot of empathy for them and felt bad about for happened.

It’s really hard when you are trying to stay focused and look at the evidence or review a video. We were keeping notes and I was writing down stream of thought questions while hearing someone 10 feet from me crying and hiding their eyes and trying not to look at the video.

So there was lots of times where we would look over to them and see how they were feeling. We knew this was a really challenging time for them and while it’s been a couple of years, they are having to relive it minute by minute, gruesome detail by gruesome detail.   

Delia: Before returning to the courtroom to announce their verdict, Pickford said some jurors cried. He described it as a heavy feeling.

Pickford: I wasn’t nervous because I thought we made the wrong decision, but I was nervous as to what the public reaction was going to be. Charlotte Uprising had been there and they had been pretty vocal, and so I was worried about the immediate reaction. Also, I was trying to think, what is Mr. Borum and his family feeling right now? How much of a gut punch is this about to be?

Delia: Pickford said he wanted to stay for the sentencing portion, but left because the majority of the jurors wanted to. There was fear of media attention.

After the jury left the courtroom, Vivian Carr gave a statement during which she said “my son was somebody” and expressed frustration over her son’s memory getting lost in the trial. Pickford went back and listened to coverage of those remarks.

Pickford: I tend to agree with what she said — with her son feeling kind of lost in this. Justin Carr was brought up to kind of drive home emotion. I think in opening and closing statements, he was brought up multiple times. The defense mentioned him too.

I understand why, but during the course of the trial he was barely mentioned and it did feel like he got lost a little bit. He was the victim of this crime, but all the discussion was around Mr. Borum and what he did or didn’t do and what the cops did or didn’t do.

Yeah, it felt like he took a back seat which is unfortunate. But also, this is a trial where Rayquan Borum was on trial and so the facts have to be centered around that. But I think it’s important that we don’t lose Justin Carr’s memory and legacy in all this. But in the grand scheme of things, a young man lost his life peacefully protesting and I think that’s really important to remember.

Delia: Pickford added he was a new respect for how cases are pieced together through evidence. It’s significantly harder to come to a verdict he said than it appears in the movies or TV.