ATLANTA — After less than three hours of deliberations Monday, a jury returned with the verdict for Tiffany Moss. She's the stepmother accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter, Emani Moss, to death before trying to dispose of her body.
Now, the jury will resume deliberations on Tuesday to decide on her penalty. She faces death, life without parole or life with parole.
11Alive wanted to hear from former jurors about how they weighed the evidence and came to decisions in these cases.
Lindy Lou Isonhood served as a juror on a capital murder trial in 1994, saying the experienced forever changed her life.
Here’s an excerpt from a TED talk she gave on the aftermath of the decision:
“So here I am in my car, and I’m wondering how is my life ever going to be the same? My life was kids, work, church, ballgames. Just your average everyday normal life. Now, everything felt trivial. I was going down this rabbit hole - the anger, the anxiety, the guilt, the depression. It just clung to me.”
Isonhood went on to explain she felt regret for the decision for years after the trial ended, even visiting the man she sentenced to death.
11Alive also talked to Cheri, a juror from Tampa, Florida, who served on the trial of Julie Schenecker in 2015.
Schenecker was convicted of killing two of her children and documenting the before and after in a notebook. In this case, Cheri said they didn’t have to weigh the option of the death penalty over a life sentence, but they had to weigh a life sentence over a mental hospital for reason of insanity.
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Since Schenecker kept a detailed journal of the crimes, Cheri says that piece of evidence, by law, led them to the decision to sentence her to life in prison.
“Unfortunately for her (Schenecker), it just kept coming back around the journal and the law," she explained. "Following the law, that evidence was definitely there that she was guilty.”
Just like in the case of Moss - where the judge and prosecutors clearly laid out what makes this case eligible for the death penalty - the same explanations were given to Cheri on whether Schenecker would be found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
“I put a lot of energy into making sure I paid attention and listened and was able to make the right decision,” Cheri said.
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Memories of a trial can last with jurors for days, months and, in some cases, years after the verdict and sentencing can. For Cheri, she said she relied on her faith to deal with what she heard and, in the end, she knew the responsibility of handing over a guilty verdict and life sentence.
“I mean, just had a part in impacting someone’s life permanently - that this woman is going to jail for the rest of her life for a decision I was part of," she said. "But on the other side is the family, the kids that we were there to listen to the case and make the best decision we could.”
In the case of Tiffany Moss, the judge granted the jurors’ request to sleep on the decision before they finished deliberating on her sentence.
Juries in Georgia have been hesitant in recent years to sentence defendants to death.
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The last death row sentence came down in Augusta in 2014. Adrian Hargrove was convicted of stabbing a pregnant woman to death and then killing her parents. He's currently awaiting execution.
Death sentences for women are even rarer. Sixteen women have been executed since 1976 when the Supreme Court lifted the moratorium on capital punishment.
Georgia was, however, the last state to execute a woman, when it carried out the execution of Kelly Gissendaner in 2015.