Bad law? Juror explains Kitze's stalking acquittal
Ken Klug went into the jury room August 7 convinced that Jeffrey Kitze was guilty of stalking. The 69-year-old retiree was chosen foreman and immediately polled the other six jurors to see if they agreed. They didn't.
"I was the only one," says Klug, who says fellow jurors used such terms as "inappropriate" over and over in describing Kitze's behavior, along with "out of bounds" and "wrong." But such behavior didn't amount to stalking, and eventually the foreman joined in the unanimous verdict: acquittal.
Klug explains that the law calls for two separate missteps. First, the errant behavior must happen on more than one occasion. And while the jury agreed that Kitze's act of entering Jennifer Connor's house one Valentine Day could fall under stalking-statute behavior, they didn't have another occasion that did.
More importantly, the jurors didn't think Connor's level of fear met the statute's demand that an accused "knows or reasonably should know that the conduct places that other person in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury...," according to Klug.
"She never came out and said those three things," says Klug. "I can empathize with Connor and see where the fear might have been real and dangerous to her; but she did not, nor did the prosecutor, paint a picture to the jury that would define her fear as the law requires it to be defined."
That's why, Klug says, he penned the statement the jury sent the judge, about the "principle of jury nullification." Klug says while he and the other jurors wanted to convict Kitze of something, the stalking law didn't address "seriously inappropriate behavior."
What the jury didn't know was that Kitze, 51, had been convicted of the brutal rape and beating of his sister's college roommate the day after both women graduated from UVA Law School in 1989. "We only knew he'd been in prison 20 years," says Klug.
The former controller of a publishing house in San Diego, Klug says he considered the letters Kitze sent Connor from prison "damning," but he says the female jurors pointed out that the letters were sent after the alleged stalking incident. Moreover, even when Connor learned of Kitze's rape conviction and was advised by Joe Szakos at Virginia Organizing to "run," says Klug, that's what made Connor probably fearful.
"It wasn't his actions," says Klug, "it was his prior sentence." He says the jury narrowed its focus on his actual behavior toward the young woman.
"I felt bad for Connor," says Klug. "I had to look her in the eye. There's no question we were with her– but the law wasn't."