Dismissed Jurors Would Have Ruled in Favor of Plaintiffs

Two alternate jurors, who were dismissed late Thursday night after closing arguments were completed, said they would have found ESD liable for gross negligence in a family’s civil suit against the school.

Jennifer Arnold, 27, and Daphne Alberty, 47, didn’t think ESD had acted in Jane’s best interest when they forced the girl to leave 60 days after her sexual relationship with a teacher was revealed. Alberty and Arnold also agreed that ESD wasn’t a charitable institution.

Arnold said the “sad story email” written by head of upper school Erin Mayo stood out to her as evidence that ESD wasn’t thinking of Jane when it made the decision.

Bill Black’s testimony, which was on Wednesday, made an impression on Arnold.

“The fact that he was still thinking about it so many years later was a big deal to me,” she said.

Black testified that headmaster Stephen Swann tried to force his daughter to leave ESD when she complained about a teacher sexually harassing her in 1993. Black said he “sold his soul to the devil” when he agreed to keep quiet about the incident in exchange for his daughter to be able to continue her education there. She graduated in 1996.

Alberty said she believed Jane had suffered mental anguish as a result of the sexual abuse and her removal from ESD. While the women were quick to point out why they felt ESD was at fault in this case, neither one wanted to assign a value to the damages.

“It’s hard putting a number to it,” Alberty said.

One number the women did feel comfortable discussing was the extra $100 they were given after about 10 days of jury service. Normally, jurors are paid $40 a day once a trial begins, but when several women complained they were being docked pay for missing work, someone stepped forward with funds to offset the loss. The jurors did not know who it was, and no attorneys present would comment on the matter.

Anderson found Charla Aldous, lead attorney for the plaintiff, and Royce West, co-counsel for ESD to be the most engaging figures in the courtroom.

“I’d want an attorney that had passion,” Anderson said.

Alberty said she didn’t feel like ESD had presented a strong defense, and she was left wanting more information from them.

“It didn’t click,” she said. “I think they could have done more.”

Both women said they were extremely engaged in the trial and took detailed notes.

“I couldn’t wait to come back and hear the rest,” Alberty said.

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