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Jury had no doubt of Couey's guilt

By JOHN FRANK
Published March 16, 2007


MIAMI - As jurors huddled last week deliberating John Couey's innocence or guilt, they read through the legal instructions and talked about the evidence connecting him to Jessica Lunsford's death.

Then they took a vote.

One vote was enough. It was unanimous. Guilty on all four charges: burglary, kidnapping, rape and murder.

With Wednesday's recommendation for a death sentence punctuating the trial's conclusion, new details about the jury's deliberation and two-week sequestration are coming to light.

Interviews with some of the Miami-Dade County jurors revealed that the physical evidence against Couey was the main deciding factor.

"There was a lot of evidence," said juror Thais Prado, 20. "Prints, the DNA, most of the scientific facts that you just cannot say no to."

Defense attorneys' strongest argument came in the sentencing phase as they explained that Couey is mentally retarded. Jurors considered it at length.

But it was the testimony of jail guards about how Couey read the newspaper, and the defendant's own coherent statements to investigators, that negated the mitigating factor, they said.

Times researchers Caryn Baird and Cathy Wos contributed to this report.