A man who served on the 2004 jury that convicted Richard Tuite in the slaying of Escondido girl Stephanie Crowe said he always believed in Tuite’s innocence, despite the original verdict.
Orlando Dona – also known as Juror No. 6 in 2004 – said Friday’s acquittal of Tuite was finally the correct verdict, and a long time in the making.
“It’s about time,” Dona told NBC 7 Friday night. “I felt good. I felt justice was done [today].”
Tuite, now declared not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 1998 killing of Stephanie Crowe, served eight years behind bars for the crime. In 2012, a federal appeals court voided Tuite's conviction and ordered a new trial.
All these years, Dona said that he’s felt bad for helping to convict someone he felt was an innocent man.
Dona caused controversy immediately after Tuite’s 2004 trial, speaking out and saying he had changed his not guilty vote to guilty due to a chart seen in the courtroom that was not supposed to be used as evidence.
He said that when he heard Tuite’s conviction was overturned and he would be retired, he was hoping for this result.
Dona said he was one of the only 2004 jurors who fought against a guilty verdict and basically gave in because he didn't want there to be a hung jury.
“We had first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter. If I did not go along with manslaughter they were going to try him again because they were after him. There was no question they were after him and if they tried him again for murder one, he would have been convicted, that was my feeling at the time,” Dona explained.
Although it doesn’t change the fact that Tuite has spent so many years in prison, Dona said it feels good knowing justice was served by the retrial jury on Friday.