‘If I were on trial," says juror Harlan Robins, a researcher at theInstitute for Advanced Study, "I’d strongly consider hiring Robin Lord. Shewas smart and eloquent. At least for me, I have a lot of respect for someone who is good at what she does and cares about her job. I don’t need to like her personally.
A 1995 Harvard graduate, Robins received his PhD in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 2001. Though he began his research career in string theory (theoretical particle physics), he works now on systems biology (using mathematics and physics principles to attack biological problems). He answered a reporter’s questions by E-mail.
Jury deliberations started mid-morning on Tuesday, July 12, and were "a bit chaotic," Robins says. The jury had eight men and four women. "We went around the room and everyone gave their version of events. The versions varied so widely that I thought we were going to be in trouble."
More details on the head injuries, Robins says, would not have made a difference to the verdict. "The case came down to the two doctors. Since neither were particularly believable, we were left no clearpicture of the events in the garage that night."
"The room was divided among those that believed it was possibly one blow and those convinced it was multiple blows," says Robins. "However, nobody thought that it was an accident in the sense of her falling on her own, or even that he just pulled her out of the car. To cause that much damage to her head, even with one blow, he would have had to throw her to the ground very hard. Combined with the fact that he did not seek medical help and tried to cover it up, the number of blows did not really matter in the end."
On Tuesday afternoon the jury designated Martin Rexroad to take charge of the deliberations. Rexroad, who is director of human resources in Manhattan for the Altria Group (the parent company of Philip Morris), requisitioned Post-It notes and began to construct flow charts of the action. Robins says Rexroad was "truly exceptional. Without him, I think the deliberations would have been an extra four days."
"On Wednesday evening, we mostly compromised and came together. However, it was getting towards the end of the day and I don’t thinkwe were satisfied with our understanding of the charges," says Robins.
"So it was suggested that we all go sleep on it and not rush to judgment. We are really glad, because the situation was much more clear in the morning. Many of us realized that aggravated manslaughter and reckless manslaughter did not really apply to this case," says Robins, noting that the jury was not given instructions on how long the jail term would be for each of the verdicts.
"On Thursday morning, it took only about 30 minutes for all of us to agree on passion/provocation manslaughter. Murder was never considered, even from the very beginning," says Robins.
Robins says though the trial was very interesting, it was "a major inconvenience" for his life and work. "I think the most important thing I learned is how differently a group of 12 people can interpret the same set of information. It was particularly interesting to see what everyone agreed on and what they had sharp differences regarding."
"Many parts of the trial were surprising, like a Law and Order episode, although there were many slow parts in between the action," says Robins. "I doubt the trial will influence my work in any real way, but I certainly learned a lot about the legal system. Hopefully, that won’t play too big a role in life."
And how about the lunches that the court provides? Says Robins: "I would certainly say my health has suffered over the last six weeks."