Read excerpts of Collins' jailhouse press conference after Monday's hearing.
It was a surreal scene, even for the surreal case that is State v. Thunder Collins.
One by one Monday, the jurors who had declared the former Husker running back guilty of the 2008 murder of a drug dealer appeared in a Douglas County courtroom.
But instead of filing into the jury box, jurors climbed two steps into the witness box, raised their right hands and testified to what they did on a long-ago weekend.
The question they faced: Were deliberations affected by the fact that they weren't sequestered over the weekend before they returned their verdict?
That query was prompted by the Nebraska Supreme Court's April ruling that sent the case back to Judge Gary Randall to decide whether sending the jurors home over that weekend affected their deliberations.
One by one, all 12 jurors said it did not.
In turn, Randall took the matter under advisement. He is expected to rule in the next several days.
Collins, who played for Nebraska a decade ago, is attempting to get a new trial in the 2008 execution-style murder of a legally blind California drug dealer, Timothy Thomas, and the attempted murder of dealer Marshall Turner. Collins shot and killed Thomas as he attempted to steal a kilo of cocaine in a garage near 70th Circle and Military Avenue.
Jurors' testimony didn't bode well for Collins, who once declared that “there's no way I'm going to die in anyone's prison.”
Outside court, Collins was still defiant, although he was a bit more docile than in previous court appearances.
Asked his chances of getting a new trial, Collins said: “I think (the jurors) said everything I needed them to say, but this is Douglas County.”
Collins' attorney, Steve Lefler, acknowledged he had a slim chance of persuading Randall, the trial judge, to give Collins a new trial. However, both he and Collins said they will press the issue further on appeal.
Prosecutor John Alagaban, a deputy Douglas County attorney, urged the judge to uphold Collins' conviction.
“It was a significant moment in their lives,” Alagaban said. “And they came in, one by one, and said there was absolutely nothing that affected their ability to deliberate or their deliberations.”
Jurors didn't mince many words as they were put in the uncomfortable and uncommon position of having to testify long after deciding a case.
“The only discussion of the case was in the jury room,” juror Marjorie Skowronski said. “I believe the jurors were honest people who did not discuss it. They were very reluctant to discuss it inside the jury room until it was time.”
Other jurors echoed that sentiment, though most limited their answers to a simple “yes” or “no.”
Several jurors described dutifully complying with the judge's admonitions to not read anything about the case in the newspaper. One juror described her children “sending me to my room” anytime TV news came on.
“I made it very explicit to the family: Don't even discuss anything,” juror Paul Kemp said. “I don't believe I ever told them what case it was. I don't believe a name was ever brought up.”
Collins — once described as narcissistic by a probation officer — shook his head and rolled his eyes at the notion that his name didn't come up.
Lefler asked another juror why she was fighting back tears when jurors announced their “guilty” verdict — a question that prosecutors objected to. Judge Randall called it a “fishing expedition” but allowed the juror to answer.
“It's just very emotional,” juror Krista Niles said. “It's hard knowing that you have to put someone away for a long time.”
To that, Collins smiled and shot a glance at the courtroom gallery. He later told a reporter: “I told you she was crying.”
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