The Ottumwa Courier

June 4, 2013

'Total, utter hell'

By CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The four days the jury spent locked in the jury room at the end of the Seth Techel trial were tense, argumentative and has led at least one juror to believe there was a "plant" on the jury.

Twelve jurors and three alternates sat through nearly one month of the trial in which Techel was charged with murdering his wife and unborn child more than a year ago at their home in rural Agency.

Micah Sheheen has come forward with her account of what happened in that jury room during the four days of deliberation that resulted in a mistrial on March 15 after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Sheheen was one of 10 jurors who came to the conclusion that Techel was guilty; two jurors did not agree.

"... let me tell you, that was the longest four days of my life, total utter hell," Sheheen wrote in a note that has been widely circulated through Facebook since it was posted Sunday night.

After meticulously taking notes and reviewing every piece of evidence, Sheheen said in an interview with the Courier that "there were things that did not add up and made no sense whatsoever," resulting in her vote: guilty.

The jury filed into the jury room on the first day of deliberations and immediately took a vote to see where everyone stood: six voted guilty, two voted not guilty and four were undetermined, she said.

But one juror, she alleges, had made up his mind before the trial even began and swayed another juror to also vote "not guilty."

"We had one person from the very get-go, before we even had deliberations, going around person to person, going, 'Whatever you do, don't let anybody change your mind,'" Sheheen said. "When it came down to deliberation time, they sat there with their arms crossed, back in their chair the entire time and didn't want to participate, didn't want to look at evidence."

By the end of the second day of deliberations, Sheheen said the vote was 10-2, guilty, with one of the two dissenting votes still refusing to participate.

The third day of deliberations began with a large board, where the jury went through testimony and listed every irrefutable fact, filling three pages.

But there was still confrontation with two of the jurors sticking by their "not guilty" stance, she said.

Several hours into the third day of deliberation, Sheheen said the 10 jurors voting "guilty" asked the other two jurors to explain to them why they felt Techel was not guilty.

"We got told that they don't have to tell us why they felt that way, they don't have to explain themselves to us," she said. "The way it was going, no matter what we did, we could not change their minds."

At 3:30 p.m. on the third day of deliberation, the jury reported to Judge Daniel Wilson that they could not arrive at a unanimous decision, according to court documents. But he reiterated that they needed to return to the jury room and come to an agreement.

On the final day of deliberations, the jury reviewed the interviews of Techel by law enforcement.

"But two people were saying solidly that they cannot change their mind," Sheheen said.

The continuing confrontation led one of the two dissenting jurors to claim jury misconduct, Sheheen said. At 9:53 a.m. and 10:48 a.m. on March 15, the final day of deliberation, the jury sent three notes to the court where "concerns regarding jury deliberations were expressed," according to court documents.

"They said they were being pressured to change their vote and said they felt uncomfortable," she said.

But eventually the head juror decided they were deadlocked and could not produce a unanimous verdict.

"We didn't want to face the family and tell them we're deadlocked," she said. "We can't give you what you need and deserve because of one or two people."

Had the alleged "plant" not been on the jury, Sheheen said the other juror who voted "not guilty" likely would have changed his or her mind.

"I felt fully confident that [Techel] did it — and so did nine other people," she said.

Currently, Techel's retrial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 12 in Henry County.

— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.