Note: Review all previous posts on this case HERE, with the most recent post appearing first. Also visit the Injustice801 website set up to advocate on behalf of justice for D.J. Bell and Dan Fair.
In the aftermath of the acquittal of D.J. Bell of child kidnapping charges in Salt Lake City, those who served on the jury are wondering why Bell was put on trial in the first place.
The Salt Lake Tribune interviewed juror Natasha Jorgensen at the end of the trial, and she expressed her frustration over the ordeal. "We agreed, as a jury, that [the four-day trial] cost taxpayers at least $100,000, and our time was wasted, as well... . We were appalled because it had come this far; there was just no evidence". And finally, the clincher: "I would hate to have a neighbor kid come to my house and become a D.J. Bell myself." Jorgensen also pointed out that if the police investigation had been handled properly, they would have reached a different verdict. Defense attorney Roger Kraft accused police of conducting a shoddy investigation, noting that 10 people who attended Latu's party were never interviewed. Neither were four people at Bell's home, even though they wanted to talk and provided police with their contact information.
But it was the ability of the jury to put themselves in Bell's shoes that most likely drove the jury towards acquittal. The speed at which they reached the verdict was astonishing; it took the jury of five men and three woman took less than three hours to acquit Bell of two counts of first-degree felony child kidnapping and one count of second-degree felony burglary. Needless to say, Bell himself was ecstatic about being exonerated; he plans to return to school, where he is studying architectural interior design. You can read the transcript of his post-trial press conference HERE. Here are a couple of news videos; let the pictures tell the story. First, from KSL Channel 5 (a whopping 271 comments so far):
And next, from KSTU Channel 13:
As for Lulu Latu, the mother of one of the allegedly kidnapped children, she and her family initially departed the courthouse, with Lulu sobbing like a baby all the way down the hall. They declined comment; undoubtedly they are scared about what's coming next. Later Lulu and her husband, the former gangbanger Ieti Mageo (who was previously convicted of a violent home invasion in Sandy, Utah) gave an interview to KSTU in which they expressed disappointment in the verdict, believe they didn't have a jury of the peers (possibly because the jury was all White), and defended their actions.
And there may indeed be a "next". Although the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office had previously declined to file charges against Bell's attackers, prosecutor Alicia Cook said Friday, in remarks recorded on this separate KSTU video, that her office will take another look at assault charges, now that complications imposed by the kidnapping trial have been resolved. In fact, testimony at Bell's trial, which implicates the father of one of the children, could be used against him, according to Cook. This testimony occurred on Day Two, when Lisa Aiono, mother of the 4-year-old boy, said her husband, Ricky Peace, participated in the beating.
Public reaction is now strongly in favor of Bell. Many suggest he should consider filing a civil suit against Lulu Latu and her family. Some even suggest suing the South Salt Lake Police Department, which is a viable option. A civil suit against the family could work; after all, the family of Nicole Simpson-Brown was able to successfully sue O.J. Simpson after he skated out of murder charges.