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Jurors voice a shadow of doubt in the Simmons case

Jurors who found William Frank Simmons guilty of first-degree manslaughter, but not guilty of murder, in the 1996 death of Kaelin Glazier say they continue to have doubts about who killed the 15-year-old Ruch girl.

At least two jurors said they found the state's case against Simmons contained little direct evidence. One who spoke with the Mail Tribune on Thursday has questioned whether the wrong person was brought to trial. A female juror who asked not to be identified said several jurors believed someone else was either the actual killer or had participated in the killing with Simmons.

"I hated how this investigation went," she said. "(Kaelin's) mother will never, ever really know the truth."

Jurors found credible the testimony of Diane Smandra, a neighbor who said she locked eyes with a "scruffy" male, whom she did not believe was Simmons, walking on Haven Road as she was driving home between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. that overcast night on Nov. 6. Smandra said the thing she remembered most was the fear.

"I was afraid of this guy," she testified. "I'm not ever going to forget those eyes."

The female juror said many were "impressed that Bill took the stand." Others thought Simmons was "cocky" or "arrogant" as he rocked in his chair.

"He wasn't a creepy guy to me," she said. "He seemed fairly credible."

Juror Rodney Durham discussed the case with a KTVL reporter shortly after the trial but later declined to talk with the Mail Tribune, saying he'd been told not to speak further about the case. However, Durham said he stood by what he'd told KTVL.

He said the state's case centered around Simmons because he was the last person known to have seen Kaelin alive, and because in April 2008 Kaelin's skeletal remains were discovered in a Haven Road pasture just 80 feet from Simmons' camp trailer.

"That's really all they had," he said. "Maybe if they'd had more circumstantial evidence, like they saw him arguing with her at the store or they were lovers, but there was none of that."

Other jurors contacted for this story declined comment or didn't return phone calls.

Forensics experts could not determine the cause of death. No murder weapon was found. And Simmons' story has remained the same throughout dozens of police interviews, Durham said.

The jury of six men and six women was told it could consider a lesser crime on the last day of the 10-day murder trial in Jackson County Circuit Court. Added by District Attorney Mark Huddleston over the objections of Simmons' defense team, the manslaughter charge was included in the circumstantial case on the chance jurors couldn't unanimously conclude Simmons intentionally killed Kaelin on that moonless November night after the two teens watched a video together, Huddleston said.

A murder conviction requires the jury to find that Simmons had committed the crime intentionally or in the commission of other felonies, according to Oregon law. Ten jurors had to vote Simmons not guilty before they could move on to deliberating the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter. The jury was told only 10 votes were necessary to convict on manslaughter.

The jury was given written instructions stating that to convict on manslaughter, it had to determine that "William Frank Simmons unlawfully and recklessly caused the death of Kaelin Rose Glazier under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."

Judge Benjamin Bloom instructed jury members that they could consider the lesser manslaughter charge only if they were unable to reach the required unanimous verdict on murder. Manslaughter has a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, while murder carries 25 years to life.

The jury deliberated for about 10 hours over two days before coming back with a guilty verdict on the manslaughter charge.

The female juror said Monday's initial vote on the murder charge came back as eight not guilty, with two jurors undecided and two jurors voting guilty. They continued to deliberate on Tuesday morning.

Two of the jurors were convinced Simmons was guilty of murder from the beginning of deliberations, she said. But "a lot of us, based on what we were hearing, felt that there was no intent," she said.

Most of the forensic evidence was conflicting, and the testimony of several witnesses who used dogs to track Kaelin was also suspect, she said.

"There were a lot of red herrings," she said.

Eventually, after sending several questions to the judge regarding voting rules, the majority was able to swing two other jurors over to not guilty on the murder charge — with one juror continuing to vote "undecided," she said.

Later on Tuesday, the jury forewoman was asked to present a question to the judge about the legal definition of manslaughter, the woman juror said.

The jurors wanted to know whether to be convicted of manslaughter Simmons had to have killed Kaelin himself, or been somehow involved, or had knowledge of the manner of her death or where the body was.

"We were told it was up to our interpretation," she said, adding she never directly saw the question the forewoman posed to the judge or his answer.

The open-ended answer was enough to swing the majority of those who had been voting not guilty over to guilty, including herself, she said.

The jury found Simmons guilty of first-degree manslaughter by a 10-to-2 vote.

"If the judge hadn't said it was up to our interpretation, our deliberations would have gone on for a long time," she said. "I don't know if I would have moved off of not guilty."

Both jurors interviewed by the media still wonder what part Simmons may have played in Kaelin's death.

"I just didn't believe that he did it, but he knew something about it," Durham said.

"We made the best decision we could with the evidence we had at the time," the female juror said.

After the verdict was announced, Simmons' public defender Andrew Vandergaw requested that sentencing for the Measure 11 crime be delayed at least one month "due to additional information that might have substantial bearing (on the verdict)."

Huddleston and Bloom agreed to the request. During the trial, outside the presence of the jury, Vandergaw had put the court on notice that there was a person who had come forward stating he or she had "vital information" about the case. But the defense had not had time to fully investigate that person's claims, Vandergaw said.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Huddleston said he did not rule out the possibility that the information Vandergaw referenced might impact the verdict.

Vandergaw on Friday declined to discuss the case, other than to say, "this case is a long way from being over."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.

William Frank Simmons, right, accused of murdering Kaelin Glazier in 1996, testifies in Jackson County Circuit Court on Feb. 10. On the left is Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Bloom. - Jamie Lusch