Six jurors in the murder trial of the man charged but acquitted of killing Andrew Graham in Centennial in 2009, are going public with their concerns about the case, calling the, "horribly misguided and inhumane" and characterizing the police investigation into the Graham murder as "unfounded, lawless and terrifying." The jurors are comparing the case to the Central Park Five case in New York, and they plan to ask Gov. Jared Polis to independently investigate the case.
"It just really took away my faith in our legal system and our police system," said jury foreperson Stephanie Swenson, a school teacher and mother who spoke to CBS News Colorado in an exclusive interview.
Swenson was one of three jurors who agreed to speak on camera to CBS News Colorado about the trial, the investigation leading up to it, and their concerns. The other two, Kwame Warner and Julie Lyons, were alternate jurors who heard all the evidence during the one-month trial last summer but were not allowed to be part of the deliberations. All three said they had not heard of the Graham murder case before they were called to serve on the jury. Three other jurors have signed on to a letter being sent to Polis regarding the Jones prosecution.
"It's crazy," said Warner. "Our system is broken. We have to shake out of this conformist mindset and stand on some level of morality and do the right thing."
as he was walking toward his family home in Centennial. The University of Colorado graduate student had been house hunting earlier in the day in Boulder and took a light rail train from Union Station to get home.
Prosecutors and investigators theorized that five young suspects, Terrell Jones, Allen Ford, Clarissa Lockhart, Joseph Martin and Kendall Austin, spotted Graham at Union Station and decided to target him for robbery. Prosecutors theorized some of the suspects followed Graham onto the light rail train, while others got into a stolen SUV and drove south on I-25. Prosecutors suggested the group of teenagers regrouped near the Park Meadows Mall light rail stop, got into the SUV, and followed Graham toward his home. They accused Terrell Jones of firing the fatal shot.
The jurors said they doubted the prosecution theory right away.
"And you're going to corroborate over a cellphone on I-25 like Mission Impossible 10, get off at Park Meadows, have a huddle and follow him a mile and shoot him? I mean come on man," said Warner, an entrepreneur and small business owner. "The story is just preposterous."
Although investigators found surveillance tape of Graham on the light rail train, investigators never found any video of any of the suspects on the train. They never found any eyewitnesses to the crime, there was no DNA linking the suspects to Graham's murder, no physical evidence was found linking the suspects to the murder, no weapon was ever found and none of the suspects' fingerprints were linked to the crime.
"Why were we even here?" asked Warner. "It just seemed like this case never should have gone to trial at all."
With little direct evidence, police and prosecutors relied on the testimony of four alleged accomplices to make their case; Allen Ford, Clarissa Lockhart, Kendall Austin and Joseph Martin, who at various times since 2009 identified Terrell Jones as the shooter, but at other times recanted their confessions. Prosecutors dropped charges against Austin in 2019 after he spent nearly three years in jail. Prosecutors said they felt they no longer had a reasonable likelihood of success at trial and Austin was freed. He is now suing over his incarceration.
After viewing numerous videos of the interrogations of Ford, Lockhart and Martin during the trial, and hearing their testimony, the jurors concluded the trio were bullied and coerced by Arapahoe County Sheriff's investigators into providing false confessions regarding their involvement in Graham's death to avoid spending the rest of their lives in prison. Each agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors in exchange for testifying against Terrell Jones.
"It became clear," said Lyons, "that in those interrogations they didn't have a choice in how they were going to respond and they had to give the right answer or they were never going to have their freedom again."
Swenson said, "The constant use of intimidation against teenagers without an adult to represent them in the room, that felt like child abuse. To threaten and intimidate and coerce and lie to their faces without an adult advocate - that feels criminal."
In a written statement, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office responded to the jurors' assertions saying Terrell Jones "was afforded due process. The investigation into the 2009 murder of Andrew Graham, which took place over more than a decade and yielded guilty pleas from three of the defendant's apparent associates, established substantial evidence of the defendant's involvement. The Sheriff's Office stands behind the tireless efforts of its investigators in seeking to bring the responsible individuals to justice."
John Kellner, District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District, said in a written statement, "This defendant (Jones) specifically had an independent judge review an affidavit and find probable cause for his charges before he was arrested. Ultimately, not every case works out the way we think it might. Regardless of the outcome, we respect the jury's ultimate verdicts in this case and appreciate their service."
Less constrained about the jury's activism is Cindy Gelston-Graham, Andrew Graham's mother. In an interview with CBS News Colorado, she said she was furious with the jurors publicly attacking police and prosecutors and soliciting the involvement of Gov. Polis and the Korey Wise Innocence Project, which has agreed to investigate the case.
"I think this is just a horrible thing they are doing to me and my son's memory. It's like they don't care there was a victim and they're trying to erase him."
She went on to say there was significant evidence the jurors were not allowed to hear that might have impacted their decision-making, like Terrell Jones' criminal record, some of the suspects' previous connections to street robberies and some of the suspects' gang affiliations.
"The jury made a very bad miscalculation when they found him (Jones) not guilty because he is indeed guilty," said Gelston-Graham. "This is just a step too far. I find it egregious they would put my family through this again."
The three jurors who agreed to be interviewed expressed sympathy for the impact their statements might have on the Graham family. "My heart breaks for her," said Lyons. "I can only imagine what that would feel like."
Swenson, the jury foreperson, said, "We can't hold other people responsible for a crime they didn't commit when there's no evidence pointing to them. I hope for her (Gelston-Graham) there is a resolution someday."
The jurors said they are convinced Jones and the other alleged accomplices are innocent and had nothing to do with the murder of Andrew Graham.
"If it wasn't for the fact that this is such a travesty," said Warner, "this would almost be comical."
In a letter dated Dec. 7 to be sent to Polis along with District Attorney John Kellner and the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, six jurors say all five suspects in Andrew Graham's murder "are innocent of this crime and yet 14 years of their lives have been tied up in relentless questioning, threats, intimidation and prison time. Unfortunately, by the end of this trial, many of us felt betrayed by the system we believed in. This is a case that never should have been brought to trial," they wrote. They accuse the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office of "unethical practices in an effort to bring peace to the community" and compare the case to the Central Park Five in New York, which saw five minority teenagers wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a brutal rape and beating in New York City's Central Park in 1989. The five were later exonerated after they spent years in prison.
"This case," wrote the Jones jurors, "is a textbook example of why investigations fail and why we need reform in working with youth in the justice system."
The letter asks Polis to grant parole to Lockhart and Ford and asks the governor to acknowledge "the injustices they (Terrell Jones and Kendall Austin) endured." The letter concludes with a request that the Graham murder case be re-examined "outside of the previous focus of this investigation."
Terrell Jones has joined Kendall Austin in initiating legal action against Arapahoe County law enforcement for his prosecution and incarceration. Jones filed a notice with Arapahoe County in October indicating he might sue over his case.
For Cyndi Gelston-Graham, the legal actions initiated by the suspects is the ultimate insult, "For them to not only get away with what they did but to profit financially, it's appalling."
The letter being sent by the six jurors to Gov. Jared Polis can be found here:
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