On day six, the State v. Peel jury returned to the courthouse at 8:30 a.m., starting their deliberations even earlier than Judge Schulz had recommended. At 2:10 p.m., they sent a note to Judge Schulz. The note said they were “unable to reach a unanimous verdict.” The judge immediately called in the attorneys for both sides. Court watchers knew something was up when the attorneys conferred in chambers before going into the courtroom to hear the jury’s response.
When the opposing sides returned to the open courtroom, both asked that the judge poll the jury. Schulz refused. Things went downhill from there. The State wanted to send the jury back for more deliberations. Weidner wanted Schulz to declare a mistrial.
Schulz demurred, saying he flrst wanted to hear how long the jury had been deadlocked. “If they’ve been in the same position for a day and a half, I’m going to be satisfied,” he declared. “If they’ve taken one vote, I’m not.” Clearly, Schulz wanted to give them every opportunity to reach a verdict.
The responsibility for answering Judge Schulz’s question fell on the shoulders of Heidi Ekstrand, jury foreman and managing editor of the Ketchikan Daily News. Schulz looked in her direction, his glasses perched halfway down his nose. He wanted to know, “how long it’s been since there’s been any movement?”
Ekstrand rested her hand on her chin and pondered the Judge’s question. She took a long moment before answering. “There has been some movement,” she said thoughtfully. “I would say the last was this afternoon.” But Ekstrand admitted they could get no further.
Schulz hesitated, his face solemn and serious. Finally he told the jurors, “I’m going to discharge you. Words can’t express my thanks,” he added. “If you’re satisfied you can’t reach a verdict, I’ll discharge you with our thanks.”
It was the worst possible outcome.
Later that evening, Carroll Mackie had a party to mark the end of the trial. Some of the guests had more than a little to drink. They shared odd fragments of information about the trial. Marcia Hilley let it be known that she had lost her faith in the criminal justice system.
Other conversations involved the jury. One of the jurors had drawn pictures of the proceedings during the trial. She showed them around after the mistrial was declared. One was a drawing of Phillip Weidner, looking like Abraham Lincoln in a log cabin. Marcia Hilley thought, “God, she thinks this man’s a hero!” Another juror had given them the impression that he thought Mary Anne Henry “shouldn’t be the prosecuting attorney, therefore she doesn’t know what she’s doing, therefore Peel is innocent.”
The best part of the party was a “memory kit.”
But the best part of the party was the door prizes. One of them was a “memory kit.” Carroll Mackie gave it out in honor of Dawn Holmstrom.
Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale. That manuscript, started in 1992 and based on court records from the Alaska State Archive, served as the basis for “What Happened in Craig.”
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2020). All rights reserved.