The Ottumwa Courier

May 29, 2009

Former NFL player acquitted

Accounts show jurors weren’t happy with their own decision

By MATT MILNER Courier staff writer

OTTUMWA — Jurors may have acquitted former-NFL player Julius Curry of theft charges this week, but there are strong indications they believe he was guilty.

Curry, 29, was accused of stealing $100,000 from Andrew and Belinda Jo Smith-Cicarella. This was Curry’s second trial; the first ended in a mistrial.

Keith Uhl, Curry’s attorney, was pleased with the results. He said the county wasted money on a re-trial after an error by prosecutors ruined the first one.

Wapello County Attorney Allen Cook was clearly disappointed.

“This one was a tough one to swallow,” he said. “I almost wish I hadn’t talked to the jury afterwards.”

Attorneys for both sides, along with the judge, frequently take time after a verdict was reached to answer any questions jurors might have had related to the conduct of the trial. That discussion is what Cook referred to. Accounts strongly suggest jurors weren’t entirely happy with their own decision.

The Courier received three e-mails Friday morning about the verdict. All three were anonymous and contained strikingly similar accounts of what happened.

According to the e-mails, a juror said point-blank that the presentations showed Curry stole the money. So, why did jurors vote to acquit?

The hang-up appears to have been part of the jury instructions.

“We knew Curry was guilty, every one of us did; we believed that Julius Curry stole the Cicarellas’ money, but we did not understand how the written ‘Jury Instructions’ that the court provided applied to the case and that was the reason why we concluded ‘Not Guilty,”’ the e-mail quotes a juror as saying.

Cook confirmed the accuracy of the quote. He said the jurors all gave him some variant of that basic explanation.

The instruction at issue involved whether Curry had acted with respect to a specific, fraudulent real estate project, as well as whether he intended to defraud the Cicarellas before he received the money or made that decision after receiving the checks.

That instruction was apparently enough to raise doubt in the jurors’ minds, despite their beliefs about Curry’s actions.

Matt Milner can be reached at (641) 683-5359 or via e-mail at mwmilner@mchsi.com