Wow. That's all I can say right now. After watching them in the jury box for a month, I knew it wouldn't take the jury long to make a decision (in fact I had a $10 bet with QCityMetro.com's Glenn Burkins that they'd return a verdict by 7:30 p.m.). I also figured they would be guilty (though my bet was they'd be guilty on all counts).
Still, when the jury foreman knocked on the wooden door just after 8 p.m. last night, my stomach became a big knot. The courtroom got quiet. People wondered aloud if the jury had another question or if the verdict was in. The courtroom staff sprang to action. The clerk put a certificate of thanks on each juror's chair. Someone notified the Jinwrights, who were waiting together in a small room outside of the courtroom. Someone else notified the judge.
When Judge Frank Whitney returned to his perch he said, The jury has a verdict. He told everyone to remain silent as it was read.
The clerk read Anthony Jinwright's verdicts first. By the third count and the third "guilty" people were crying. After a few non-guilties Jinwright was acquitted on the mail fraud charges and Harriet was only found guilty on four of 13 charges the pressure in the room eased slightly.
Then the attorneys began to argue about whether or not the couple should be taken into custody. Mr. Jinwright's lawyer, Ed Hinson, argued that he wasn't a flight risk, that an ankle monitoring bracelet would more than suffice. No one seemed to think Mrs. Jinwright is a flight risk.
The judge, however, said this, "I'm concerned about the economic risk to public safety by allowing the defendant to remain on bond."
In other words, the judge didn't think Mr. Jinwright who is still refusing to take a pay cut from Greater Salem Church can keep his hands out of the church's coffers.
With that, U.S. Marshalls were instructed to take Mr. Jinwright into custody. That's when the sobbing began. Initially, they took him back to that little room just outside of the courtroom. As I walked by, a woman tried to wave at Mr. Jinwright through a female Marshall's arms.
"Keep moving, keep moving," the Marshall said.
The sobs continued through the courthouse hall, down the steps and, for quite some time, on the sidewalk.
Glenn tried to get photos. My Charlotte Observer peer, Eric Frazier, gathered more comments. I asked a U.S. Marshall to escort me to my car. Yesterday was my husband's birthday, I had someplace to be. Life, after all, goes on.
Glenn and I talked this morning about how we couldn't help but wonder how Mr. Jinwright was doing in lock up last night as we, on opposite sides of the city, nestled into our comfortable beds. It can't be easy to fall so hard.
I feel for the people of Greater Salem Church. I feel for the Jinwrights. No part of this is easy.
As things settle, I'm compelled to look for the lesson in all of this. I think it's pretty clear, but let me know what you think: Honesty always trumps dishonesty, common sense and prudence trump mysticism, and not being and expert (say, in regard to taxes) isn't a bad thing just know when to seek help from an expert. Oh, and take their advice.
You can catch up on the entire Jinwright tax trial saga over at Qcitymetro.com.