Texas Capital Juror Regrets Vote to Sentence Defendant to Death

In an interview with The Marshall ProjectTexas death penalty juror Sven Berger says he would not have voted to sentence capital defendant Paul Storey to death in 2008 had he known about Storey's “borderline intellectual functioning,” history of depression, and other evidence that Storey's lawyer failed to present at trial. Berger and 11 other Texas jurors unanimously voted to sentence Storey to death, but Berger says that at the time of jury deliberations he did not believe Storey would pose a continuing danger to society if incarcerated - a fact that is a prerequisite to imposing the death penalty in Texas. Berger says "I just didn't get the feeling he was dangerous.... But the other jurors seemed anxious to deliver the death penalty" and in the highly stressful circumstances of death penalty deliberations, Berger went along with the other jurors. In the interview, Berger shared his experience saying, "If I could have done anything, it would have been to deadlock the jury, but I didn’t have the personal strength to do it ... at the time, I was really uncomfortable speaking out." He said that, after the verdict, "I felt guilty about what happened. And sad. And a little helpless. ... Eventually I started saying, 'I don’t think I made the right call.'" Two years later, Berger was contacted by a lawyer working on Storey's appeal who showed him a psychologist's report explaining Storey's background and mental health issues. Berger wrote in an affidavit that had he heard this evidence, "I would not have voted for the death penalty."

(S. Berger as told to M. Chammah, "My Regrets as a Juror Who Sent a Man to Death Row," The Marshall Project, March 10, 2016.) See New Voices.