Two former jurors who convicted ex-New York Yankee Rusty Torres of sexually abusing a young girl returned to court Thursday and said they voted to convict him because they wanted to go home and felt pressured by fellow jurors.
Nassau County Court Judge Tammy Robbins ordered a fact-finding hearing after former baseball journeyman Rosendo “Rusty” Torres, 66, claimed in court papers that he had evidence jurors at his sex abuse trial had “compromised” on the verdict. Torres had been accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with two girls – ages 8 and 9 – when he was a coach at an after-school baseball program in Plainview.
Torres claimed jurors were split – six of them believing he was guilty and six believing he was innocent – on every count. He alleges they came to a “trade agreement” and found him guilty of sexually abusing one of the alleged victims and not guilty for the other girl. The jury convicted him of five counts of first-degree sexual abuse and acquitted him of two other sex abuse charges and a charge of course of sexual conduct against a child.
“Someone would say, ‘I’m not going for these charges, but I’ll go for those,’” a juror, identified in court only as Maureen, told the judge. “Everyone wanted to go home.”
The woman – whose last name court officials wouldn’t provide – said she was the last holdout on the 12-member panel and caved after feeling pressured by fellow jurors. She says she believes there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Torres.
“Why didn’t you stand your ground?” defense lawyer Troy Smith asked.
“I don’t know. I should have,” she responded.
The woman told the court she came forward because she thought there was an injustice.
Assistant District Attorney D.J. Rosenbaum argued that jurors changed their minds during deliberations because of the evidence in the case – not because of an “agreement.” During cross-examination, the woman admitted she only came forward after being contacted by Torres’ private investigator who told her Torres has cancer and that Torres’ wife suffered a stroke.
Rosenbaum also questioned the woman about a telephone conversation in which she allegedly told the prosecutor she didn’t recall details from the deliberations.
“I was probably just saying that to get you off the phone,” the juror quipped.
A second juror, Jean Sheehan-Kaim, of Hicksville, said she believed Torres was innocent, but changed her vote because she was afraid the trial was taking too long.
“I changed to guilty when I heard [another juror] say we’re going to be here another two weeks,” she said Thursday.
“Did she have a crystal ball?” Rosenbaum shot back.
“I voted guilty because I needed to leave,” that juror later said. “I had a new job that I was afraid I was going to get let go from.”
Sheehan-Kaim also admitted that she told the judge she had voted guilty when every juror was polled after the verdict. “I said yes because I didn’t know what would happen if I stood up and said ‘not guilty.’”
Testimony in the hearing continues Monday. Torres’ lawyer has said he hopes Robbins will order a new trial if she finds there was juror misconduct. Prosecutors have argued there is no legal ground to set aside his conviction.