A member of the jury that convicted two men of murdering Navajo Tribal Officers Roy Lee Stanley and Andy Begay hopes a third defendant will plea bargain and explain what happened that terrible night.
The juror was interviewed by the Deseret News this week, commenting on the new trial ordered for the third defendant, Ben Atene Jr. While defendants Thomas Cly and Vinton Bedoni were convicted on Aug. 2, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on Atene.U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene declared a mistrial in Atene's case and set a new trial for Oct. 11, in which Atene will again be tried on charges of first-degree murder and using a firearm to commit crimes.
The juror, interviewed with the understanding that no name would be used, is the same one who spoke with the paper the day of the guilty verdicts.
The juror expressed the wish that Atene would "plea bargain and maybe shed some light on exactly what happened" when Stanley and Begay were murdered Dec. 4-5, 1987, on the Navajo Reservation near Monument Valley.
Failing that, "I hope this trial gets some more questions answered."
Following the first trial, some commentators wondered why all three defendants weren't found guilty or innocent.
According to the juror, to convict Cly and Bedoni, the jury depended largely on the testimony of prosecution witnesses Martha Chee, Marie Haycock and Boyd Atene. All three gave statements implicating Bedoni and Cly.
But only one - Boyd Atene - said anything about Ben Atene Jr. going to Copper Canyon, where the wounded officers' trucks were set afire and the officers were burned to death.
And among the three eyewitnesses, Boyd Atene was thought the least believable, because of his "inconsistent statements and getting charged with perjury." So of all of them, his testimony was given the least weight.
"We basically ruled out Raymond Fatt (another prosecution witness) because he was real inconsistent." As for witness Julius Crank, "his stories were hard to believe even when he was on the witness stand."
While they were deliberating, the jury sent a memorandum to Greene asking him to clarify the crime of "aiding and abetting," for which they had the option of finding Ben Atene Jr. guilty.
Greene said that under the law, a defendant may be found guilty of first-degree murder if he aided and abetted. "It didn't say you must," the juror said.
The difference between saying they "may" find him guilty or they "must" find him guilty was "a big problem to a lot of people" on the panel.
"Some of the jurors had a problem with the commission of a crime. They wanted to know if the commission of a crime started the first time the law was broken, or the first time there was a murder."
Based on the testimony, they speculated that Ben Atene Jr. might have been involved in the fight with Stanley, but perhaps not after that.
If Stanley was murdered after the fight, and after Ben Atene Jr.'s involvement, was the defendant still guilty of aiding and abetting in murder? On such issues the jury was unable to come to a decision, resulting in the mistrial.