Juror: judge's instructions made it impossible to convict daycare owner

Juror: impossible to convict day care owner

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. -- Just days after a daycare worker was acquitted in the death of a little boy under her care, one juror is speaking out, claiming the judge's instruction made it impossible bring a conviction.

On Friday, Janna Thompson was found not guilty of murder and child cruelty in 3-year-old Max Stephen's death.

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Dorie Griggs, who was a juror in the case, told 11Alive’s Valerie Hoff in an exclusive interview that there were no winners in this case, because a family lost a loved one and the person responsible faces no punishment.

“I don't think anyone had a good night's sleep last week,” Griggs said.

Griggs said jurors had a difficult time listening to graphic testimony about how the toddler accidentally hung himself on a playground with a piece of twine from a pine straw bale.

“The 911 call was very difficult,” Griggs said. “The raw emotion Ms. Thompson was verbalizing on the tape, we heard, and putting yourself in the position of finding a child strangled on the slide.”

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Griggs said most of the jurors thought Thompson was guilty of something, but weren't sure what.

“She was not as attentive as she should be with small children on a playground,” she said.

Thompson’s day care was shut down by the state before and had previous safety violations, but jurors were not allowed to know that.

In addition, Griggs said, instructions to the jury by Judge Henry Newkirk made it harder to return a guilty plea. She said Newkirk told them Thompson was guilty of child cruelty and second degree murder only if she knew the twine that killed Max was on the playground. It was an instruction that outraged prosecutor Pete Johnson and put reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury.

“This has been a very, very tough decision,” the judge said inside the courtroom on Friday.

Griggs said it was tough for the jury as well; they left the courthouse in silence, some in tears.

“(There were) conflicting feelings of saying ‘Not guilty’ when you felt like something horribly wrong had happened,” she said. “There was a frustration of not being able to do, for me, what I thought needed to happen.”

Griggs continued: “I know the defense said something about winning the case, and I don't there were any winners,” she said. “The family that lost their child definitely not, but Ms. Thompson and her family will never have peace.”

Griggs say she does feel better about the case knowing Thompson won't be taking care of children any longer.

(© 2016 WXIA)


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