Our partners at KRDO are reporting that former Fort Carson soldier George Peters was today declared "not guilty in the murder of two-month-old Nicholas Johnson." However, "he is guilty of child abuse resulting in death. He is also guilty of child abuse resulting in injury in the case of his own son, Gabriel Peters, as well as two more counts of child abuse on his son."
Though Peters was acquitted of the charge of murder, the Gazette says Peters faces between 26 and 80 years in prison for the charges that did stick. Coincidentally, a good friend of mine, Marcus Espinosa, served as a juror during Peters' trial, which he called "very rough, and emotional."
As far as the mixed verdict on the primary charge, Espinosa says it came down to a majority of a jurors on one side arguing it out with a few others.
"The directions [to the jury] were legalese stuff; ‘Was he aware that his actions would almost definitely cause death to the child,’ and that was our sticking point there," says the 24-year-old juror. "Some of us thought that he was aware he was probably going to kill the child if he shook him that hard, and some of us thought that he was just an addict jonesing, and in the heat of the moment, with two children that he was watching, crying, he just overreacted."
The deliberations, which began Friday, recessed for the weekend before resuming today.
"It was tense. The first handful of the counts went by relatively quickly: I’d say we got all the way up until the murder charge by about midday the first day, and then from that point forward it was a lot of intense discussions; we had to take a lot of breaks and the room would get heated," Espinosa says. "Because, you know, everybody in there except for me had kids, so, they had a lot of passionate opinions about it, too."
With the Gazette saying Peters "showed little reaction as 4th Judicial District Judge Thomas L. Kennedy announced the verdicts," I asked Espinosa if the former soldier struck him as a sympathetic character.
"No," he says. "He definitely seemed like the person that the prosecution painted him as; as someone that was an irrational drug addict who was unstable. He’s definitely not someone I would’ve wanted to leave my children with.
"I don’t think anybody in that courtroom, defense or prosecution, really thought they were gonna be able to paint him as some sort of, you know, martyr. He came off like I think he really was, which was a bad person that did a really bad thing."