Jones case juror deposition becomes public

Alan Jones / file photo

The court file on Alan Jones was released to the public Tuesday at the Oswego County Clerk's office.

Monday, Judge Walter Hafner sentenced Jones to 25 years to life for the strangulation murder of his stepsister, 11-year-old Erin Maxwell. Before sentencing, Hafner denied a defense motion to throw out the verdict. Defense attorney Sal Lanza tried to show improper conduct by the jury.

Among the court documents is a 42 page deposition from juror Mark Dristy. Under questioning by Lanza, Dristy revealed the 12 men on the jury were "confused" about the charge of murder by depraved indifference. "We didn't understand it that well," Dristy said he had second thoughts but was convinced by the others to vote guilty even though "it became quite evident there was a reasonable doubt."

Dristy confirmed to Lanza that another juror said "if he let the defendant go free and then harmed another child... he could not live with himself." Yet another juror said "somebody has to pay for what happened to Erin," according to Dristy's deposition.

Jones told police that Erin accidentally hanged herself while playing with a rope in her room, but a former medical examiner testified ligature marks on the girl's neck showed she was strangled. In his deposition, Dristy recounts how they attempted to re-enact the alleged hanging by placing the rope around a juror's neck. "We wanted to try to simulate in some way, the way Erin could have been found hanging... that helped convince some of the jurors the rope was too long."

Dristy said that in his mind, the marks on the juror's neck substantiated Jones's claim that Maxwell hanged herself.

Judge Walter Hafner ruled that the revelations from the jury did not justify setting aside the guilty verdict. His order, which is also part of the file, states, "The fact that some jurors may have made some improper comments during the stress of deliberations does not constitute grounds to vacate the verdict."

Lanza says that Jones plans to appeal the guilty verdict, although the paperwork has not yet been filed.

Click on the related links below to read the complete court documents, including the juror's deposition and the judge's response to the defense motion.