A decade after I was the jury foreperson on a death-penalty case, I am going public with my story. Using my full name, anyway.
When the jury chose me to be the foreperson, I figured the job might include being a spokesperson of sorts. Sure enough, the moment the trial ended, I was mobbed by reporters. One of them was from the Denver Post, and he was among the first to quote me. (Spoiler alert! If you are planning to read my book and don’t want to know the ending now, don’t click the links in this article.)
I had no training in public relations or dealing with the press. Journalists can be persistent. Most are polite but some are not. A reporter once trailed me through the courthouse with a camera in my face and even waited for me outside a restroom where I tried to escape. I’m a helpful guy and I had a hard time saying no (I’ve since gotten much better at it). My nature is to be useful and answer questions.
And I answered many questions, especially through formal sentencing and appeals and when politicians pondered abolishing the death penalty. During the notorious “Aurora Theater” case, journalists sought me out as an expert on what the jury was going through. You can see an example of such an interview here.
I appeared on three of the Denver television stations and a radio talk show. In every appearance, though, I requested anonymity. I had one reporter pull her story from future broadcasts and the station web site when she accidentally used my full name on the air. At the time, anonymity seemed safe. Safe from critics. Safe from those angry about my verdict. Safe from confrontation by those who disagreed with me.
I had to overcome my fear of criticism and confrontation to tell my story. I was pushed along when I realized there wasn’t anonymity anyway. Appeals attorneys and investigators came to my home several times over the years wanting to ask questions. They clearly knew all about me and where to find me. Somehow, they discovered I wrote about my experience and that I shared those writings privately with a few people. They eventually got an appeals court to require me to give my “book” to them, even though I hadn’t published it or had any plans to publish. They got the loose-leaf pages fresh from my laser printer and grilled me for a day on the witness stand.
That is when I decided that anonymity was useless, and that fear was blocking me. Not just blocking me, but others who might benefit from my story. So I let it go and stepped out of the shadows. Will some criticize me? Probably. Will others find something good in my story—maybe even the inspiration and courage they need to take a faith-changing journey of their own? That is my hope and the reason you know my name.