Ferraro Talks About Jury Duty


Anneliese Kail & McKenzie Powell
Ferraro interview

The first week of school came and went and history teacher, Mr. Ferraro, was conspicuously absent. When he showed up in the second week, students learned that he had been absent due to a different kind of learning experience. Mr. Ferraro was selected to be on the jury for a murder trial and was chosen as the foreman. With such an opportunity to gain insight into our judicial system, Mr. Ferraro was more than pleased to attend.

Q: What was your overall experience?
A: I never thought I would get picked for jury duty, all of my friends said you won’t get picked. When I went to get picked they asked me questions that were general but relevant to the case. Overall, I was glad and proud I went through with it. I went in kicking and screaming, but came out glad I got to have an opportunity for this experience. I think picking me was a good choice, because I look at both sides of the story before replying. Many jurors were emotional which didn’t help them think everything through thoroughly. As a Christian, God judges people, but who am I to judge people? After I got over the fact that I wasn’t judging this person, it helped me enjoy the experience. I was just interpreting the law. Also, as America we are proud to be 1 out of 5 countries that let people have a voice in the government. At first I didn’t think I should be involved; it was between the victim and killer’s family and friends. Why was I involved? But then I knew I was continuing our duty as citizens to have a voice in the law.

Q: Did anything shock you about our judicial system?
A: The one thing that shocked me was how fast the duration of the trial went. Inside the courtroom everything was relaxed and we got a lot of breaks. On the outside though it seemed it was flying by. I always knew what you saw on T.V wasn’t real but it’s hard to picture yourself in a real jury.

Q: Before you went in did you already decide on a verdict?
A: No, when I went to jury duty I didn’t even know what case it was or the details. So after listening to everything then I reached a decision.

Q: How did you get picked as foreman?
A: It was the last day when we were going to deliberate, when I got picked. One lady who was taking charge recommended me and mostly everyone agreed. I was honored and scared at the same time. Near the beginning of the trial I thought  “We will need to pick a foreman”. I wanted the job but wasn’t going to step on people’s toes to get it. I like the role as a leader. I feel I’m a leader in my family, school, and multiple other scenarios also. So, I embraced the job. There were no set instructions on the foreman, but I like to organize. So, I organized the deliberation. I practiced reading the verdict two times before reading it aloud in court. While I was filling out the papers I realized there was a typo. We were finding him guilty of first degree murder and the paper didn’t have an option to do that. We told the officials and they fixed it.

Q: How did it change your life?
A: It reaffirmed my beliefs in our judicial system. That an innocent man will walk and a guilty man will be charged. I realized people need to stop and smell the roses. This man was killed over something so trivial. After school I always come home and my little girl always knew I was at school “playing” with kids but that first week I realized thats what she thought. She had no idea I was on a murder trial. It made me feel like protecting the innocent world, after seeing everything.

Q: Does that change your opinion on our judicial system?
A: No, I feel we interpret the law correctly and we have a fair judicial system.

Q: Were you already biased in any way before you were chosen for jury duty?
A: No because there was a lot of questioning beforehand to determine if you had any bias. In this case, in regard to alcohol, drugs, guns, murder, etc. I think they must’ve really liked my answers which was why I was selected. Additionally, I wasn’t even aware of the murder itself so I hadn’t formulated any opinions. I didn’t even know it had happened.

Q: Was it hard to keep your silence during the trial?
A: Yes it was. It’s hard because it’s one of the most emotional things you’ll go through. Especially in my case since it was a murder trial. Most of my friends have never been picked for a trial and the ones that have it was for stealing or insurance fraud…this is murder. So naturally you’d like to share and tell people stuff and you can’t. For instance Cyril Wecht came in one day to give his testimony on the autopsy and he’s internationally known. He’s the guy that did J.F.K.’s autopsy. I wasn’t star struck, but he’s a big name and I couldn’t tell anybody about that. It’s open to the public, people can walk in off the street, but I couldn’t go home and tell anyone.

Q: How did jury duty differ from what’s shown on TV or in the movies?
A: The trials themselves are obviously less dramatic, and over all the process goes much faster than on TV. Our jury selection was Monday, the trial started Tuesday, we were there all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, we heard testimony early Thursday, and deliberated by lunch Thursday. In the jury, however, one day of actual work is very relaxed. We would start late, then stop to take a break, spend at least an hour at lunch, then you start again.  It just blows your mind that there’s going to be an answer that quickly.

Q: Did you feel satisfied with the verdict and why?
A: Definitely. I feel satisfied with the verdict because our job was to interpret his behavior against the law and when we did that I think it was pretty clear cut. We deliberated for about seven hours so I feel like we looked at every angle. After the trial was over and we were allowed to speak to anybody about it, I spoke to my uncle who’s a retired attorney and I asked him about the procedure that we went through and he said from what he could tell it was an extremely fair trial. Since then I’ve also spoken with lawyers in Greensburg who were friends with some of the lawyers on the case and they felt that we came up with a fair and objective verdict.

Q: What did you feel for the defendant and their family when the verdict was read?
A: I tried to remove emotion because your natural reaction is to be mad. It was tough not to be angry at him because you knew he murdered someone, but then you have to remember that he may have been a victim all his life with alcohol issues and/or drug issues. So you had dual feelings between being angry and feeling bad for him. Especially since he’s a graduate of Greater Latrobe, you feel pity that now he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison. You can see that the line between him and a normal person isn’t that far off so you also had compassion even though he murdered Don Holler and altered those people’s lives. The defendants stepdaughter was there for a day and a half, so you felt bad for them too naturally, but you also felt like maybe they’ll check their own lives. It made you feel good that you could go get in your car, drive home to your family, and breathe a sigh of relief because it’s not your problem.