Interview with Sean McMurrey

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Table of Contents 
  •  Introduction and consent 
  •  Background and current work 
  •  The alleged crime 
  •  Bonds that form between jurors 
  •  The first witness 
  •  Emotionally dealing with the evidence 
  •  Interpreting the evidence and the law 
  •  Hearing about Segura's life story 
  •  Deliberating as a jury 
  •  Sean's misgivings about the evidence and testimony 
  •  Reflecting on the jury's decision later 
  •  Feelings throughout the trial 
  •  Bonds and empathy between jurors 
  •  Mitigating factors in Segura's defense and Segura as a victim 
  •  Involvement with prison gangs 
 
Topics 
  •  Voir Dire (Jury Selection) 
  •  Evidence  
  •  Mitigating Factors 
 
Transcript 
  •  VIRGINIA RAYMOND: Is it on? 
  •  CELESTE HENERY: It is indeed. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay, all right. Thank you, Sean, for your patience. Today is the fifteenth of November 2009 and we are here with Sean McMurrey. Sean, will you spell your name? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Sure, my first name is Sean S-E-A-N my last name McMurrey M-C-M-U-R-R-E-Y. 
  •  RAYMOND: Great, thank you. And this voice talking is Virginia Raymond and behind the camera is Celeste Henery, Dr. Henery. And we are here in central east Austin to interview Sean about his recent experience on the jury. Sean, we have gone through this right before the consent form, but I want to just go over again with you. We are interviewing you today: you are in control of the interview. 
  •  McMURREY: If you want to stop, take a break, you are in charge. If you want to not answer anything, you are in charge of all of that. After the interview we will give you the D.V.D. and then at some point later, which takes a while we'll give you the transcript. 
  •  McMURREY: We'll ask you to review it, make any edits you want in the transcript and make any deletions you want from the D.V.D. When it's the way you want, we'll ask you if you will consider donating it to use for educational and non-commercial purposes, including getting it to libraries and educational institutions. Most specifically right now we're thinking about giving it to U.T. and the Human Rights digital initiative, (sic) but maybe also other libraries as well. 
  •  McMURREY: We will also ask you whether if you donate it to us, if it can be public and at what point. And we will also ask you if you do donate it to us if you mind if we put it on the web, and again at what point; and that would be so that everybody could learn from your experience. 
  •  McMURREY: And you know that once things go on the web even though we're not using it for commercial purposes, or anything other than educational purposes, there's really no guarantee especially with the rapidly improving technology that somebody else couldn't use it at some point for some other purposes that neither of us like. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Understood. 
  •  RAYMOND: So do you have any questions? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: No. 
  •  RAYMOND: All right. So you signed this consent form? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Yes I did. 
  •  RAYMOND: Thank you. And I will sign it right now that I've explained the risks. Risks are simply that we would release something confidential by accident before we are supposed to, or that you would get upset. The benefits are really none other than knowing that you are helping other people understand this process a little bit better. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: I got it. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay, thank you very much [inaudible] All right, thank you very much. So Sean, if you could just describe a little bit about yourself, however much you need to, just so we know who you are. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Well, I grew up in Texas. I was born in Bryan, Texas. I grew up there but then moved to Austin at an early age, and pretty much spent my whole lifetime here, growing up through my early years. I left to go to college, and then did some traveling around Latin America, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras. Then came back to Austin a few years ago and have been working here in Austin. 
  •  RAYMOND: And we have discussed that you have a sensitive job, so were not going to talk about it or even name it, but in general, very general, what kind of work do you do? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: In my capacity, in my position, in my job, I work with law enforcement and family members that are involved with active cases, and assist them, provide them with technical assistance of how to investigate the cases and try to come to a resolution. 
  •  RAYMOND: Thank you. And how old are you Sean? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: I am about to turn 27 here in a couple of days. 
  •  RAYMOND: Happy Almost-Birthday. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Thank you. 
  •  RAYMOND: Well the reason why I asked if you would grant us an interview is because you served as a juror recently in a capital murder case. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Correct. 
  •  RAYMOND: Would you tell us about that case? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Sure. Well, in September of 2009, I served as a juror on the case for the State of Texas versus Albert Segura, Jr., in which the defendant was charged with —by indictment, with the offense of capital murder, alleged to have been committed in Travis County, Texas, on or about the eighteenth day of November 2007, to which the defendant pled "not guilty." And so it was our job to look at the evidence in the case, and we came to the decision that he was found guilty of capital murder. 
  •  McMURREY: And before getting into the whole justice system, I didn't know what the difference was between murder and capital murder. There's different components that can elevate an offense from murder to capital murder. 
  •  McMURREY: In this particular case, the defendant was charged with having either committed—murdering more than one person during the same criminal transaction, or murdering more than one person during different criminal transactions but pursuant to the same scheme and course of conduct. 
  •  McMURREY: So, what happened here is A.J. Segura was alleged to have murdered Billy Jean Ferguson in a house off south Austin, and then later murder his mother Patricia Smith off the highway I-35 a few hours later. So it was two murders pursuant to the same criminal transaction. 
  •  RAYMOND: And tell us about your experience as a juror. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Well it was actually a very long—my mail goes to my mother's house, because I have been in and out of the country and moving for different reasons, and so all my mail comes here. And so she got the notice that I had been called for jury selection. 
  •  McMURREY: So I was like "Oh great jury selection," nobody really wants to do jury duty. You hear a lot of bad stories about it. So I went online, with the code that they had sent me in the mail, and filled out a few questions there preliminarily and then I guess I passed the basic first process. 
  •  McMURREY: So then they sent me another email, with questions about how I felt about the death penalty, and different ways I would interpret evidence, and if I had any reason that I couldn't look at the law and make a decision based on personal bias. 
  •  McMURREY: And different questions about how I would interpret evidence, if it was presented by one person would hearing a witness testimony from one individual be sufficient enough for me to convict someone. Just basic questions about courtroom proceeding, I guess. Maybe ten or fifteen questions there, so I filled that out online, they sent it back to me with another twenty page questionnaire very similar questions but going into a little bit more detail. 
  •  McMURREY: So I sent that back to them and they called me in for the actual day of jury selection. We went in, and there was about a hundred twenty individuals there; I think I was number thirty-four. 
  •  McMURREY: And they brought us all into the room, into the courtroom and they asked questions very similar to the ones that were on the questionnaire that we all filled out: some going into a bit more detail, and then asking questions, and we had our numbers—about this size—and they'd say, " 
  •  McMURREY: If you feel this way, hold up your card," so we'd hold up our cards, and then the attorneys would jot down everything, what everybody's saying, trying to get a feel for it. Granted there were a hundred twenty of us there, so I'm not sure how beneficial it was. They said that it's usually—there are less people there usually—or fewer people, so I don't feel it was a very productive process honestly. 
  •  McMURREY: So that lasted a few hours, and then they called us back in later for individual voir dire—again another term I wasn't familiar with—I had to learn. 
  •  McMURREY: But basically in an individual voir dire, what I did was I went in front of both of the teams of attorneys—the prosecuting attorneys and the defense attorneys—and I sat on the witness stand with the judge and they asked me questions based on my answers to the questionnaire that I filled out. That was about a thirty minute, forty-five minute long process. 
  •  McMURREY: And if you have ever sat on a witness stand or been questioned by an attorney, you'll know what I mean by this: it was a very intimidating experience; those guys do not joke around. They don't speak like a normal person speaks. They use language that's very confusing and I think they're trying to trick you while you're up there. So I did feel some sympathy for the witnesses, when I was taking part in the trial. 
  •  McMURREY: But they definitely grill you about your beliefs. They asked me how I felt about the death penalty, and my experiences with it in the past. If things with my job would prevent me from being able to listen to the evidence that was presented to us, would I want more evidence? 
  •  McMURREY: And it was really hard looking at the different types of evidence that was presented in making a decision based on just what was in the courtroom. So they really focus on how you interpret evidence and what kind of things that motivate you when they're deciding. 
  •  McMURREY: And also I didn't know this for jury selection, is they don't select you based on your responses. They call it jury selection so I thought, "Oh, we want this guy because these beliefs," but basically what it is, is jury de-selection—so they find reasons to not pick you, reasons why they wouldn't want you. 
  •  McMURREY: And after my individual voir dire, I thought that they were going to kick me out, and say, "Oh, this guy, there's no way." They sent me out of the room for about ten minutes, came back in and they told me I'd been chosen for jury duty. 
  •  McMURREY: So about two weeks there—so that whole process—we're talking about a month later from the time I initially got the letter in the mail. Through that time, about a week or two later, went in on a Monday and I met the other twelve jurors, there were thirteen of us in all. There's typically twelve jurors that make the decision, but they added an extra person there in case one of us got sick and wasn't able to continue coming. 
  •  McMURREY: And there was all people from all different kind of backgrounds. I think the youngest juror was nineteen, and went up to people in their older, higher sixties. So we had all people from different age groups, different backgrounds, different races and everybody was very friendly. 
  •  McMURREY: I guess because they de-selected all the strong personalities and the people that are left over are kind of the ones in the middle. We all got along really well and I think we really formed a beautiful bond with one another. 
  •  McMURREY: I think that was one of the most interesting aspects of the whole experience was the role that we played for one another, the support system, the personal connections that we made with one another because we couldn't talk about the case outside of the courtroom. We couldn't talk about it with anyone. And even during parts of the case we couldn't talk with each other. 
  •  McMURREY: And nobody really understands what you are going through when you are getting these pieces of evidence. And so the first day we went in there as a group of thirteen strangers, kinda thinking, "Hey, I don't have to go to work today," not vacation but you're out of your normal routine. And you're like, "Okay, I am not at my desk," and you sit in there and you don't really realize the severity of what it is that you're doing. 
  •  McMURREY: The first witness that we listened to was a survivor in the case. The defendant Albert Segura, Jr.—we called him A.J.—is what he went by. A.J. attempted—had a conflict with this individual, and when he went to confront this individual and kill him is when he murdered Billy Jean Ferguson—thought he killed this individual, Mario Rivera. Mario lived and actually called 9-1-1 and police responded to his 9-1-1 call. 
  •  McMURREY: A.J. left the house with Billy's mother because he thought he had killed Mario and Billy. He took Patty—Patricia Smith—with him—Patty—in his car and drove off a field and killed her later. 
  •  McMURREY: So our first witness that we heard from was Mario, and seeing him in the courtroom there with A.J., when he pointed him out and said "He's the man who shot me, he is the man that shot Billy Jean Ferguson," within five minutes of us walking into this courtroom , we are like "Holy cow, what is going on here?" 
  •  McMURREY: You know, you felt the intensity in the juror box. And when we went out for our first break, was like "Wow guys, this is a really, really intense situation." And hearing that and having—speaking with someone or listening to someone talk that has survived a murder is a really intense experience. And that's when we got pulled into it and realized what we were doing. And so I am trying to think now of where I was going with that. 
  •  RAYMOND: You had been talking about the beautiful bonds that form and the support you played for each other when you can't talk about— 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: That's right. So, that's whenever—there was times at night where—another juror and I, we exchanged phone numbers because I think a lot of us were scared of kind of the confidentiality component because A.J. was—we found out later that he was a member of the Texas Syndicate, which is a very popular prison gang, well not popular but very powerful prison gang in Texas and around the country. 
  •  McMURREY: And so a lot of people were kind of scared, I think. His family was there all of them seeing our faces. And we were kind of nervous and so, even amongst ourselves we didn't want to share a lot of personal information, but we had no one to talk to. And we're dreaming about this stuff at night. I know I was, and some of the other people that I spoke to, they we're dreaming about it. From the details that we heard—trying to piece together that night. 
  •  McMURREY: And, for us, there were some that I called, we wouldn't talk about the case but we would just say, I'm freaking out. I talked to my sister, and my mom and other people and said, I'm doing this interview, what kind of things did I talk to you about? 
  •  McMURREY: Because I kind of put a lot of memories aside. I mean, I remember at the time I was very, I was just kind of all over the place. And so I asked them, What was I talking to y'all about? What were some of the things that I brought up that was bothering me? And they said I don't know because you couldn't talk about anything, you were just freaking out. 
  •  McMURREY: And I really was just freaking out. Seeing the pictures of the deceased. Pictures of Billy Jean: he had four entry and exit wounds on him from the shots that he sustained. And then his mother Patricia Smith, her body was found about a month later in a field. And seeing those pictures was very difficult. 
  •  McMURREY: We also, right after Mario testified after that he was shot and that A.J. was the one who shot him, we heard testimony from the next door neighbor, who said that he saw a woman leave the house limping and running. 
  •  McMURREY: And then the next day when he pulled out there was a cone by a shoe that was there, and they pulled out the shoe that Patty had been wearing and her foot came out of, and, having the shoe there, that piece of evidence there, and seeing the picture of her and realizing that was on her foot the last few seconds before her life, and then it's there in the courtroom with you. 
  •  McMURREY: It's those kinds of things that send a chill up your body and it's really hard to kind of explain what that was but you're there. And we were thirteen strangers that had nothing to do with this situation. 
  •  McMURREY: The cops were there, the investigators, the family members, different individuals who testified they were all a part of that. And we were thirteen people who were living our lives, going to work and all of a sudden got a letter in the mail that said, "Hey, you have to come serve as a juror on this case." 
  •  McMURREY: And we just got thrown into this crazy world of drug addicts, drug abuse, and death. And that's one of the things that made it hard about this case because this is obviously my first murder case that I've taken any part of. 
  •  McMURREY: And the judge told us that it was unlike a lot of the murder cases that he's tried before, in the fact that the deceased were drug addicts, were drug abusers. It wasn't a real happy life that was taken away, I guess, in that sense where he said a lot of times they showed pictures of the family before to show what was taken away and what was lost. 
  •  McMURREY: But in this case it was just some individuals who were living maybe an unhappy lifestyle—not so positive lifestyle—so that wasn't brought up. And that's what made it harder when you're listening to testimony is because everyone that was involved, earlier that day they had been using crack cocaine: smoking crack, shooting crack intravenously. 
  •  McMURREY: So their memory, and recollection of the events were not the greatest. And unfortunately everybody's testimony seemed to be different in some way. Nobody's testimony corroborated anybody else's testimony. And you heard different stories from everybody. 
  •  McMURREY: And so being there as a juror, and you're told that you have to interpret the law, and use everyone's testimony to do that is very difficult because you didn't know who to believe. And even if they were, thought they were telling the truth, they didn't know what they were saying because they couldn't really remember. 
  •  McMURREY: And as a jury—you're putting the law and really the outcome of the case, in the hands of twelve people, who don't know all the facts of the case, and don't necessarily understand the law either. And sitting there, and you are given piece by piece, and so you find out that someone was shot here, and then you hear ballistics expert testimony about how the bullet entered the body. 
  •  McMURREY: And I forgot where I was going with that one. There's just a lot of different ideas that I wanted to try to bring and incorporate, and I feel like I'm going off on tangents. 
  •  RAYMOND: That's fine. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: And I'm trying to pull back together what my main idea was. But luckily there was some of that strong evidence support you know, that the bullets did come from a certain gun. And the pieces did match up slowly and surely but there wasn't, there wasn't just the smoking gun where you could easily point and say that's him. 
  •  McMURREY: They didn't find a weapon on him, but you know there's typical, cliché "smoking gun," he was caught red-handed, no questions asked—it was him. And we all felt pretty sure it was him, and the evidence did point that direction but it's hard when you're trying to decide what's going to happen with someone's life. 
  •  McMURREY: Someone referred to it at the time, as you're almost playing God for a few moments, because whatever decision we came to, was going to interpret what happens with A.J.'s life for the rest. Is he gonna go to prison for the rest of his life, or be put to death? 
  •  McMURREY: Because in Texas for the death penalty, if you're convicted of capital murder, the only two punishments available are confinement in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty. And then at the same time if we don't convict him and we let him go, is he going to commit other acts of violence at the same time? 
  •  McMURREY: I don't know A.J., all I know is what was presented to me in the courtroom, and they can't present all the evidence to you in the courtroom for different legal reasons. And that was another frustrating aspect of being a juror: how when you hear the attorneys yelling, "Objection this; objection that," and it's getting really heated in there. 
  •  McMURREY: And the judge's reasons for either going with the objection, or, "Scratch that from the record," or "Sustained," you know—the terms that we don't understand, really. There was—you don't know what's happening, as a jury like, "What do I do, what am I supposed to say?" And so, it was hard, it was really hard in that sense. You got any questions? 
  •  RAYMOND: Well sure, talk about—there's so many things I'm curious about, but you said it was hard to know who to believe—are those your notes for today to talk about? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Yeah these are my notes. So there was two parts of the trial. The first part was the guilt/innocence stage, where we had to establish the culpability, and decide if he was guilty. So the evidence that's presented there, and the testimony that's there is a lot different. 
  •  McMURREY: There you have testimony from the lead investigators, from people in the case analysis units that are analyzing blood, that are analyzing ballistics and everything. That's when you get that, and that's—that was a difficult phase. I think, like I said, just getting piece by piece, and the suspense of trying to put the puzzle together. 
  •  McMURREY: And it's almost like an intense drama where the commercial comes right at the intense spot, because then the judge will say, "Oh, well, let's—we'll continue this tomorrow." And you're like, No! We need to do this now! And it is very suspenseful, and it's hard because you just want it to be over kind of, you want it to come to a resolution and let it all be finished. 
  •  McMURREY: And then the second part, once we decided that he was guilty, the second part of the phase is the punishment phase, where then we had to decide if he would be a continuing threat to society—jail being considered society in that. And if we thought he would be a continuing threat to society, then we pretty much had to vote in favor of the death penalty, unless there was other mitigating factors that would be a reason why he would be a continuing threat to society that were out of his control. 
  •  McMURREY: They presented—and that's when we really got into A.J.'s life, and the background of who made him who he was. I'm a strong believer that people are born good for the most part. That we're born with a clean slate, and we're good people. And I think a lot of times in our society, people start off as victims. 
  •  McMURREY: A.J. as a child had a very rough life. The influence his father played on his life was very negative influence, and kind of I think made him the person he was based on his father's background. And so A.J. lived a very hard life; I think he had to grow up a little faster. We heard testimony from his little sister. 
  •  McMURREY: A.J. basically had been in the court systems since the time he was fourteen. I believe he is thirty-seven now—I think thirty-five in 2007 when he committed the crime. But he had been in and out of prison for eighteen of those years in between. So most of his adult life he had been in the justice system, and in and out of prison. 
  •  McMURREY: And he—I think at first he started off with theft, robbing houses that kind of thing, minor crimes. Then it started getting elevated to drug use, now he's getting picked up with paraphernalia, marijuana, crack cocaine while he was robbing houses. 
  •  McMURREY: And I kind of see at one point, here's a fourteen year old trying to put food on the table, because his dad is off doing something. And his sister testified that he was the only one there. He was the one who had to take care of us, and how else is he going to put food on the table. 
  •  McMURREY: And so I felt in a way that A.J. was a victim at first. And somehow our society was not able to step in and provide him with the resources that he needed, or his family needed, to get them out of that cycle, to get them out of that lifestyle. And then unfortunately because of that, the victim then becomes the offender. You know they make a transition from the victim phase, to the offender phase. 
  •  McMURREY: And in that way I felt sorry for A.J., I still looked at him, even though he was a thirty-seven year old man that had been convicted there for you know murdering two people, and trying to murder a third, I still looked at him almost as a fourteen-year-old boy there who had slipped through the cracks, and hadn't been provided with the necessary assistance. 
  •  McMURREY: And so seeing his sister come up there and talk about their life, and the things that they went through as children; his dad got up there and testified. His dad had serious health issues, both of I think A.J.'s brothers died of congenital heart diseases that are hereditary, and his father is suffering from the same thing, and had to be removed from the stand because, like I said, being up on the witness stand is intense. 
  •  McMURREY: And those attorneys were definitely laying into him. He had an episode and had to be removed from the stand and go off. And so that was a very emotional experience. And A.J.'s mother also got up on the stand and testified. She was crying, and just really getting into that personal side of these people's life. 
  •  McMURREY: From being thirteen, you know there was thirteen of us, only twelve of us made the decision but there was thirteen up there. We're all strangers, living our normal lives, daily lives and then we just got shoved into this for nine days. 
  •  McMURREY: The trial lasted nine days. The guilt/innocent part was about six days: a Monday through Friday. On that Friday the case—they finished and we deliberated for about seven hours, we couldn't come to a decision. And we came back that Monday and deliberated for a few more hours and finally came to a decision. 
  •  McMURREY: And then, the next—from that Monday through Thursday, then we finished the second phase. So it was nine days in total of just courtroom trial experience and very intense nine days. Just a very intense nine days. 
  •  McMURREY: But I almost think that the second part, when you're trying to establish the punishment is what was the more emotional part, because you are really seeing the family side, and you're getting, almost inside the mind of the offender, of A.J. 
  •  RAYMOND: You said that on that Friday of that first week, you were having a hard time coming to a decision. So seven hours and then the weekend and then you came back and deliberated some more. What eventually gets a group of people from "We don't know," or whatever, I don't know what it is. Is it "We don't know?"; is it "We disagree?" Can you talk more about the deliberation process? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Sure, well like I said the first day when we walked in we we're all strangers; we're all really friendly. We're an easygoing group of people and we hit it off. But whenever you get in there in the deliberation process, and you're starting to have to voice your opinion, and that's when people's sides come out, and you kind of see things. 
  •  McMURREY: And from what I recall, when we first went in, we were I think six and six. Six people had made a decision one way, and six people were still sitting on the fence. So we had a lot of talking to do. 
  •  McMURREY: And the judge again, he referred to our—he referred to the jury as one of the most attentive juries he's ever seen. He said it was like a tennis match watching us, because we would be up there and the defense would say something and we would see what the witness response was, and we would look at A.J. to see how he responded to it. 
  •  McMURREY: And we were just back and forth all of us. And he said he had never seen a jury that had paid so much attention before, and he thanked us for that. 
  •  McMURREY: But being in there, we deliberated; there was definitely a few people who tried to take control I think and kind of set the pace. There was one point where it got a little heated, and one individual said, "He killed Billy and his mother Patty. It's our duty to bring justice to their families." 
  •  McMURREY: And I was like, Well, I disagree that it's our job to bring justice; I think it's our job to interpret the law. That's what we are here to do. I was like those guys are the ones bringing the justice; we're here to interpret the law. And just because something bad happened you're just automatically assuming that it was him. And he's assumed innocent until proven guilty and we have to think— 
  •  McMURREY: and that is what was really hard is—I looked at him—I mean the evidence was pretty obvious right away and I was like, Well, you know, he's guilty, but I was looking at it as he's innocent until I have enough evidence. And some of the people in the jury, they really wanted to bring justice. 
  •  McMURREY: And I was like we need to be careful how we're bringing justice. And they kept saying, "Where's your evidence that he didn't do it?" I was like, That's not the point. The evidence is—where's the evidence that he did do it? 
  •  McMURREY: And there was a lot of evidence that did, but again without—I wanted to make sure we were making the right decision, and from my experience in my work, and experience in my family that are very active in Austin, in central Texas, with the death penalty—they're not big fans of the death penalty. So I've had a lot of experience listening to their reasons why, and their reasons of not supporting the death penalty. 
  •  McMURREY: And one of the things that I've heard a lot was, that they're not—the defendants aren't provided with good defense attorneys. I was very pleased with these attorneys and their job. I thought they were private attorneys at first that he had hired. I thought maybe he had connections to this Texas Syndicate gang, I was like Wow, he got himself some good lawyers. So they did a great job. I thought that the attorneys did a fabulous job. They were very attentive as well. 
  •  McMURREY: And the judge said that the jury was attentive. So those were some of my fears going in, that we were going to have a jury that was just ready to convict, and attorneys that didn't care about what happened. 
  •  McMURREY: But the attorneys did care; they did a fabulous job. And we had a group of people who—there was definitely the ones who were ready to get the conviction, but they took the time to listen and we talked it out and we deliberated for a really long time, throwing out ideas. 
  •  McMURREY: And what I liked about our jury group—I've never sat on another jury so I don't know—but, it was okay to express yourself; when we went around the room and each of us kind of said, "Look, this is what I'm thinking. This is what my troubles are. 
  •  McMURREY: This is what I'm trying to digest. This is what I feel, but this is kind of what's preventing me from making my decision right now. Like I think he's guilty but there's a few things I have questions on I want us to discuss this. Can we discuss this?" 
  •  McMURREY: And the group did a great job of saying "Okay, Sean, this is how you feel, this is your problems; this is how I'm digesting that information. Okay, so you're having trouble seeing how this scenario went down, well, this is how I'm interpreting it; this is how I see it." 
  •  McMURREY: You know so we kind of worked through with each other that way. And so we went around the group until everyone was able to digest the things that they were having problems digesting, so that we could move forward to come to an agreement. And I don't know if that always happens. And it seemed to run pretty smoothly. 
  •  RAYMOND: Can you talk about the problems, as you said, the problems you were having trouble with? 
  •  McMURREY: Sure, well, like I said there was no smoking gun essentially. And a lot of the people who testified weren't that credible witnesses. 
  •  So, and one of the problems I had was one of the witnesses one of—I guess the prosecution's—one of their strongest witnesses that they had was testimony from David Valdez who was a friend of AJ's. David had been with A.J. throughout the day, and was parked—said he was parked outside in the car when A.J. went inside the house at 10410 Margaret Lane, and committed the offense. 
  •  I know, sometimes when I read I say 10410 Margaret Lane because that address was drilled into our heads—anytime something was presented and they said, "On or about the eighteenth day of November did then and there, intentionally take the life…" The prosecution just drilled these things and I was dreaming "10410 Margaret Lane," you know, "then and there." 
  •  It was just the kind of language, and the atmosphere being there in the courtroom was overwhelming and unforgettable. But, sorry, where was I going with that? 
  •  RAYMOND: You were talking about David Valdez. 
  •  McMURREY: David Valdez, that's right. He was one of the top witnesses, and so, his story, I thought he was kind of a person who was just trying to cover his tracks. I felt a lot of his answers leaned one way towards he was completely not guilty, and A.J. was completely guilty. 
  •  McMURREY: And I consider David Valdez an accomplice to the murder. I didn't believe a lot of the things that he said, and because I considered him an accomplice I couldn't take his testimony into consideration. So that was another hard thing, even though I had heard what he said, when I'm trying to decide if there's enough evidence, to suggest, beyond a reasonable doubt, that A.J. did it, I can't listen to his testimony. 
  •  McMURREY: And there was a point where, after they committed the murder of Billy, and they—well, David said that A.J. dragged Patty to the car by her hair and threw her in the back of the car, and forensic evidence showed her blood in the back of the vehicle, so we know that she was in the vehicle. The neighbor testified that he saw her run after the car, and she got in the car. 
  •  McMURREY: And they ran out of gas somewhere off of I-35, pulled off the side of the road, and David said he stayed in the car and that A.J. walked off a hundred yards, several yards into the field, and came back alone. We saw ballistics evidence that Patty's back vertebrae here were shattered, suggesting that a bullet had entered her neck here and traveled through. 
  •  McMURREY: They didn't think that she was standing up because the bullet would have exited her mouth and knocked out her teeth, and there would have been damage there, so they think the angle of the shot, the angle of the fracture to the vertebrae, and the fact that there was no exit on the front—her whole front of her body was decayed from having laid in the field for about a month, so they couldn't find an exit wound from the bullet. 
  •  McMURREY: But the idea was that she was on her knees and shot execution style. Because of that the bullet would have exited and then come out down here, and it wouldn't have left an exit wound in her face. 
  •  McMURREY: So I had trouble believing that maybe David didn't go off into the field with him. And we had cell phone pings from satellites and from the towers. They were saying that A.J.'s phone was in that vicinity. That his phone was outside the 10410 Margaret Lane where Billy was murdered and Mario was shot, and then also in this field where Patty's body was found. 
  •  McMURREY: His cell phone pings were there. The bullets that were fired from the same gun were there. But the only thing that put Patty and A.J. out in that field was David Valdez' testimony. 
  •  McMURREY: And I didn't believe a word that David said. And also I thought he was an accomplice so I couldn't take his testimony into account. And I had a real hard time believing whether or not A.J. went out in that field alone. I said, Who's gonna go out into the middle of a dark field, at three am in the morning by themself? And they're gonna leave you in the car after you witnessed a murder? And not think you're gonna take off? 
  •  McMURREY: And they were buddies, they did drugs together, they hung out, they were roommates. I had a feeling that maybe—one of my concerns that I said, Look guys, I need help with this. How do I know that they didn't walk off into that field and A.J. said, "Hey, I want you to be a part of this, too. Let's do this." 
  •  McMURREY: And the kind of coward this guy was when—he kind of took A.J.'s table scraps. He was a younger guy in his early twenties, A.J. was in his mid-thirties, and this guy kind of followed A.J. around and ran his errands for him: drove his car around, did all the petty work for him basically, and hoped that he'd give him table scraps of either money, or drugs. 
  •  McMURREY: So I could see him trying, maybe trying to press him to do what he wanted and maybe taking this person's life. So, if David had done it, it wouldn't have been capital murder, and A.J. would just be guilty of murder, because he wouldn't have committed two murders within the same criminal transaction. 
  •  McMURREY: So I just had a really hard time trying to figure out how did this happen. So that was one of the things that I asked people to help me digest, and we looked into A.J.'s character, of him being a controlling, dominant person. We didn't think that he would relinquish his one source of power, which was the gun, and give that power to somebody else. So those were kinds of things that we talked about and discussed throughout the case. 
  •  McMURREY: Also, the fact that A.J. went to Mexico, after the murders and David did not. We thought that if he had committed murder he would have most likely left the country, as well. So, there's other circumstances, well just things like, I see it, it makes sense, I think this, but I really, can we talk this out? 
  •  McMURREY: Because there were things when we'd go home and you just kind of go I need to talk to somebody about this please. This is a lot of pressure, and you can't. You can't talk to anybody about it. 
  •  McMURREY: And one is you want to talk about the things that you are seeing: photos of Patty Smith, photos of Billy Jean Ferguson and then articles of clothing, like we pulled out the backseat of the car, they had that as evidence there. We looked at the blood marks in the backseat and pulled out Patty's shoe, held it. 
  •  McMURREY: Just different things we were really touching it, we had the bullets there that had entered and exited their bodies, that killed them. We had all photos of the room where the blood splattered everywhere. And it was just really unreal. 
  •  McMURREY: You kind of think about it like I'm sitting in a—I'm watching TV is kind of how you interpret it. And all of a sudden you're sitting there and you're like, This is real life, you know, this isn't TV, this is happening. 
  •  McMURREY: And myself and a fellow juror after the case had finished, we drove to 10410 Margaret Lane and looked at the house. And kind of sat out there and talked for a little bit, and walked from where we thought the car had been parked and kind of looked at it all and decided we thought we made the right decision. 
  •  McMURREY: Because even afterwards you're like, did I make the right decision? I feel that he—I'm confident that A.J. did kill those two people. But then you come to the punishment phase, when is he going to be a continuing threat to society? And I'm like this guy has been in and out of prison his whole life, member of the Texas Syndicate, definitely not a great guy. 
  •  McMURREY: I think there's mitigating factors that made him who he was—and it was hard because you want to make the right decision. Like I said, my family is against the death penalty, and I was kind of raised with that mentality, but I also understand the need to follow the law the way it was written, and that's what I said I would do. I would interpret the law, and if I thought he would be a continuing threat, that's what I would do. 
  •  McMURREY: And it was hard to have that responsibility lay on you, because even though he's gonna be in prison, and be in solitary confinement for twenty-three hours out of the day—only one hour—I think forty-five minutes for recreation that they take alone outside and I think fifteen minutes for shower and the rest of the time they're in and eight by eight cell. 
  •  McMURREY: Anytime they leave or exit their cell, they back up to the door, put their hands out and are handcuffed, their ankles are cuffed and then they're escorted by one or two officers down the hall. 
  •  McMURREY: And that's the extent, but there are still instances where officers are murdered or beaten by these guys. And so I was sitting there thinking, Well, what if some kid or some wife loses their husband who's a corrections officer because I gave this guy the benefit of the doubt? 
  •  McMURREY: You know because I thought, he has a chance. He was a bad guy, he made a few mistakes but I think deep down he's a good person, he can change, and I give people that benefit of the doubt. That was hard, because if something were to ever happen and he were to do something, I would hold myself personally responsible for that. 
  •  McMURREY: And I think that's why it was a lot of pressure being a juror because that's on you. Anything that happens now, A.J. does something bad, I'm gonna blame myself almost because I didn't think he would be a continuing threat to society. That would be an awful thing. 
  •  McMURREY: Those are the kinds of pressures, I think, that when I was talking to my family about how I was freaking out. It wasn't just the horrible material that we were seeing—the photos and the murders—but really that responsibility lays on you to make the appropriate decision, and that's where lot of my stress came from. 
  •  RAYMOND: And what did you do with that stress, did you have any personal mechanisms of dealing with it? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: I went to the gym and like I said some of the bonds from the other jury members—because those were really the only people we could talk about it. Because I tried to talk to my friends, or family members: I was like, Wow, you guys wouldn't believe this evidence we were presented today. 
  •  McMURREY: And then they're like, "Oh, cool, yeah. Well, what are we gonna do later?" And I'm like, You don't understand what I sit through everyday. And when I go out to lunch even when we had our lunch breaks in the jury room I would look around at these people just eating their meals regularly like nothing's going on. 
  •  McMURREY: And I'm like, You guys have no idea what's happening a few blocks over here of what I'm dealing with—the things that I'm seeing, and what's happening in our community. 
  •  McMURREY: And after I went by that house at 10410 Margaret Lane, and I saw it, I said, I've seen a lot of houses like that here in Austin. That could be going on in any house, in any neighborhood around here. And that was really shocking and bizarre that, that could be your neighbor, that could be down your street where, you don't know. 
  •  McMURREY:  I could easily—the neighbor that we heard witness testimony from—that could easily be me. Where I said "Yeah, I knew the house next door had some bad characters in there, and I never thought this was gonna happen and wake up one day to gunshots." So, it's kind of scary. 
  •  RAYMOND: So, you were not sequestered, obviously; you could go out to lunch, go home at night. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: We went home. I guess trial started at about nine o'clock everyday, and we were able to go out for lunch. We weren't allowed to talk about the case to anybody. We couldn't look up in the news, which was kind of hard because you want to hear what's going on. We weren't able to do any kind of investigative work on your own, regarding the case. 
  •  McMURREY: It was weird because when we walk in—you kind of wish you were sequestered a little bit more, because we just took the regular elevators that everybody else that was taking part of the trial used also. So there was times where I was on the elevator, and the size of the elevator is very small, with A.J.'s family. And they're not supposed to talk to you. We can't talk with them at all. 
  •  McMURREY: But you make eye contact; you see each other. And you feel something there, and you just kind of hope y'all aren't mad at me for this. At times I kind of started feeling like it was my fault for everything that was happening. And I was like no, I just got called for jury duty. I didn't do anything wrong here, this isn't me. 
  •  McMURREY: But you do kind of start feeling like you've done something. You feel really bad for the family, you kind of hope they don't hate you, because they seem like good people. I think that's maybe one of the reasons the attorneys had them there, because they were good people. Something happened with A.J. where he went down the wrong path I think. 
  •  McMURREY: But also, being in the elevator with the lead detectives, and Billy Jean Ferguson and Patty Smith's family was there too, and seeing them. And at times I was like I don't want to be around these people. Is there another elevator we can go out the back and not be a part of—because I didn't know if maybe his family would get mad and want to hurt me for coming to a certain decision. 
  •  McMURREY: I just didn't know; I didn't know if Billy Jean and Patty's family would be mad at me for not coming to a certain decision. So I kind of wish we would have been separated from them a little bit more. 
  •  McMURREY: But when we started the deliberation process, when the defense and the prosecution rested their cases, during the first and second phases, we were sequestered at that time, and we weren't allowed to leave one another. Now on Friday, they did let us leave afterwards because we couldn't come—we deliberated for so long I think it was seven or eight at night, and they just sent us home. 
  •  McMURREY: We came back Monday. So, I guess we weren't sequestered at that time, but we weren't supposed to talk with anybody or do anything. But there was times whenever we were in—I think there was one or two cigarette smokers, and we all had to go out together and watch them smoke and then come back in. So it was good. 
  •  RAYMOND: And that was because? 
  •  McMURREY: I guess they didn't want us talking about the case without each other being there. Also, if one person got up to use the restroom you had to completely stop talking about it, no one could talk about the case, or discuss the case while any one juror was absent. 
  •  RAYMOND: Then tell me how did these bonds develop: these bonds of support or empathy. These thirteen people together all the time. 
  •  McMURREY: Well I think because we were different, there was some of the older individuals and the younger. There was maybe some of the—I don't want to say fatherly-like figures—but some of the older males and I came offer to support system in that way—of kind of directing where we went, and just talking, because there was times when we were in deliberation and we weren't talking about the case. 
  •  McMURREY: We were just talking about our lives, and each other. Maybe trying to figure out why we thought certain ways or that kind of thing. We did tell a lot of personal stories and shared a lot of personal experiences. But I think, really, almost besides things being said, it was just going through that experience together. 
  •  McMURREY: I mean there was a lot of unsaid things, because we couldn't talk. So, but it was just the fact, knowing that you understand how I feel. That we are all kind of freaking out: like, "Could you sleep last night?" "No, I couldn't sleep last night." "Why couldn't you sleep?" "Well, because this and this." 
  •  McMURREY: We didn't go into a lot of details but just because we understood we were all kind of suffering the same—and I don't even know if I can put it in words, but it was, it was just this great sense of responsibility and the sense of there being a dilemma that you had to kind of resolve. And that's why it was so hard because I didn't know what it was that was bothering me. 
  •  McMURREY: There was all these different elements combined, I think: seeing the graphic images, and hearing the stories and then also having that responsibility. Just the combination of all that stuff just really—and those other jurors, they understood that. And I think that's kind of where the bond felt. And, especially after the fact, there's this one person I keep in touch with, we still talk about the case. 
  •  McMURREY: She's the one that we went to see the house and everything, so definitely formed a stronger bond with her, and two of the other people we would go out and have lunch everyday. Because you kind of understand too, we're twelve strangers, thirteen strangers, and we have nothing in common. 
  •  McMURREY: We don't need to hang out and see each other everyday. We're not going to be friends, but I was sad to say goodbye to all of them. You kind of want to get their numbers, but we have nothing in common. What are we gonna do, sit around and talk about sad capital murder trials all the time? But one individual and myself, we keep in touch. 
  •  RAYMOND: I want to ask you some things but I want to just do a time check. Fifteen minutes? 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about—you said that A.J. had—there were mitigating circumstances, that he had a hard life. Can you talk a little more about that and what that meant to you and what was the evidence presented that made a difference to you. 
  •  McMURREY: Sure. Basically A.J.'s father, his name was Albert Seguro also. A.J. was a junior. So, his father and mother met in high school, they were high school sweethearts, and they fell in love. And then Vietnam War happened, and A.J.'s father went off to Vietnam. 
  •  McMURREY: And he came back and is when they had the children. I guess it was A.J., his two brothers and then there was a female sister. They were all born after his father came back from the war. 
  •  McMURREY: And I guess things started to happen a few years after his return. I'm not sure what happened but he had some psychological problems from the war that he would have flashbacks at times and would walk around the yard with a gun yelling and cussing, and he was very abusive towards the mother physically and sexually. And she ended up having to leave the house for not feeling safe. 
  •  McMURREY: And then A.J. was raised, him and his brothers were raised by his father, who was mentally unstable. A.J. was on probation at one point for theft when he was fourteen or fifteen and his father took him to Mexico with him. I guess the idea was that his dad said he wanted to keep him out of trouble, and he got permission from the probation officer and everything. 
  •  McMURREY: But aparently when they were down in Mexico they got into some illegal activities, and his father was apparently trafficking cocaine, crack cocaine. And so A.J. kind of got into that lifestyle at that point and was running errands for his dad, doing things with his father. 
  •  McMURREY: And still just seeing the violence that his father inflicted on other siblings, on his mother; growing up seeing his dad putting a gun to his mother's head, and the screaming. You know how a child living in that environment is gonna witness some of these things and be affected by that. So that was kind of mainly what was presented by that. We heard testimony from his father up there talking about it. 
  •  McMURREY: His dad seemed to have forgotten a lot of these things, but the mother came up and testified. We got to hear her story firsthand and her experiences as a woman living in that environment, why she had to leave. And then A.J.'s sister testified that she went down to stay with A.J. in Mexico for a while, and the dad would pretty much just disappear and so A.J. would be out trying to make money for them to eat and put food on the table. 
  •  McMURREY: They slept on the floor on the cardboard boxes. There wasn't much in the house, and A.J. was the one who kind of took the role, even though he wasn't the oldest brother, he took the role as the one who would try and provide for the family. And, I say I think he was a victim. 
  •  McMURREY: I don't think a kid would just—I think one of the reasons he got into robbing houses is because he noticed the need to have money for the family. Then once he got into that lifestyle it just kind of snowballed after that. So that's what kind of got A.J. into the violence, and then he was in prison in his early twenties and was in there for eighteen years of his adult life in prison. 
  •  McMURREY: And so just some of the things he encountered during that time was presented. He was a member of the Texas Syndicate, like I said, and there was letters that he had written, talking about how he was running the unit where they were housed. 
  •  McMURREY: He was in charge and he had gotten rid of the other gangs in other ways. He had no offenses in prison for having done anything, very minor things, not getting his meal card stamped, not going to work, those kind of things. Never in any fights; never in any violence; but he was a smart guy I think. 
  •  McMURREY: If he was controlling things, he was making things happen but not directly involved. So that was one of the things that was presented as is he was going to be a continuing threat in the prison society? Is he a violent-type person who does these kind of things? But, as a younger age, the mitigating factors that the defense was trying to present was that his father made him who he was. 
  •  McMURREY: And the negative influence, the negative role that his father played in kind of making A.J. this bad person. I don't think A.J. was a bad person, I just don't think he understood the consequences of things, of his actions. He didn't know what was bad. 
  •  McMURREY: I don't think he wanted to go out and do bad things, he just didn't realize that that's bad. You don't do that. So I still consider him a victim because that, too. 
  •  RAYMOND: You said that he controlled things in the prison. What kinds of things were they talking about? 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Well, there was letters that he had written to other suspected gang members in prison, letters he had written to his family outside of prison, saying that he was running the show. That he was running the court, that there was no other handball players. 
  •  McMURREY: There were different codes to reference what he was doing. So they had—I think it was the Chicano brotherhood, or another prison gang that was there and he had been able to get all of them out of the unit. All of them had been transferred to another unit. 
  •  McMURREY: So, he was saying that there had been a fight also, and so he said that he had been able to get all of the other guys out of the unit. And that's why I said he had never been convicted of anything so it was all these "alleged" kind of activities. He said he was basically running the Texas Chicano Brotherhood, or the Texas Syndicate in his unit where he lived. He was the main—the top dog. 
  •  RAYMOND: But that was all him saying it. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: That was him saying it. That was another thing that they presented—that this is him maybe trying to toot his own horn, sounding like he was more important than he is. But, he was writing this to other suspected members of this Texas Syndicate so I think if there was somebody else who was above him and they found out he was saying these things it would have caused a rift. 
  •  RAYMOND: I think we need to stop, take a break for a minute to change the tape. 
  •  SEAN McMURREY: Okay. 
  •  Watch  Video 2,  Video 3 of "Interview with Mr. Sean McMurrey" 
 
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Title:Interview with Sean McMurrey
Abstract:In 2009, Sean McMurrey was a juror in the trial of Albert Segura. The Travis County jury convicted Segura of capital murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In Video 1, McMurrey explains the process by which he was selected for the jury; shares what he learned about Segura thoughout the trial; and discusses the bonds that formed between jurors. In Video 2, he narrates the story of the murder and the issues and tensions the jurors faced as they deliberated over guilt and punishment, including the definition of "reasonable doubt." In Video 3, he reflects on the overall lessons and the lingering psychological effects of the experience; and offers advice to prospective jurors. This interview took place in Austin, Travis County, Texas on November 15, 2009.
Sequence:1 of 3
Creators:
  • Sean McMurreyRole: Narrator
  • Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
Contributors:
  • Virginia Marie RaymondRole: Interviewer
  • Celeste HeneryRole: Videographer
  • Shane CruzRole: Transcriber
  • Rebecca LorinsRole: Transcriber
  • Rebecca LorinsRole: Proofreader
Date Created:2009/11/15
Languages:
Type of Resource:Moving image
Genre:Interview
Rights:
    This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study. All intellectual property rights are retained by the legal copyright holders. The University of Texas does not hold the copyright to the content of this file. Formal permission to reuse or republish this content must be obtained from the copyright holder.

 

 

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