Bingo juror: ‘It felt like we didn’t finish’

Published 1:17 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

The almost-all female jury that spent almost three months in the federal courthouse in Montgomery listening to hours of testimony and evidence in Alabama’s bingo corruption trial included a Red Level women who said Friday she’s exhausted from the effort.

Teresa Tolbert was a member of the jury that deliberated from Fri., Aug. 5, until Thurs., Aug. 11, before telling the judge they were deadlocked on many counts.

As a result, the jury returned 91 counts of not guilty, and U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson declared a mistrial in the remaining 33 counts. Judge Thompson has said he will set a new trial date within the month.

There were six black women, five white women and one white man on the jury.

On Friday, Tolbert said, “In his opening statement on June 10th prosecutor Justin Shur told us that the government would use the defendants’ own words to prove its case. He also told us that this case was not about politics as usual, not about legitimate lobbying, not about raising campaign funds. He said this case was about greed and corruption, that these defendants broke the law over and over again and they were going to prove it to us unequivocally. They weren’t able to do that.

“The burden of proof was on the prosecution and through their witnesses and the evidence that was presented to us over the course of an incredibly long summer they simply were not able to meet that burden for some of us.

“Those tapes that we listened to, many times I felt a sense of incredulity because I just couldn’t believe that this is what they had,” Tolbert said. “The three who got the plea deals – Gilley, Massey and Pouncy – had no credibility in my eyes. Beason, Mask and Lewis had obvious political motivations.”

She was referring to Country Crossings developer Ronnie Gilley, and two lobbyists who worked for him, Jarrod Massey and Jennifer Pouncy, who pled guilty to charges and testified for the prosecution. Sen. Scott Beason wore a wire during the investigation; Rep. Barry Mask and Houston County District Judge Benjamin Lewis testified for the prosecution.

“The only regret that I have is that we were not able to reach a unanimous decision,” Tolbert said. “It felt like a job that wasn’t completed.”