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Black Hawk County, jurors carried out their obligation

Black Hawk County, jurors carried out their obligation

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Theresa "Terri" Supino, center, and her defense attorneys Steven Addington and Jill Eimermann brace themselves for the jury's verdict Feb. 20 in Black Hawk County District Court.

The Black Hawk County Courthouse, its employees and the community recently hosted folks from Jasper County for almost three weeks.

The occasion was Theresa "Terri" Supino's murder trial linked to two deaths in March 1983 on the Copper Dollar Ranch near Newton.

As you might imagine, the stakes were high for those involved. Law enforcement officials invested three decades of work and a good deal of money to bring the case to trial. Surviving family members of the victims -- Steven Fisher, 20, and Melisa Gregory, 17 -- hoped for resolution too. And Supino, the accused, risked losing her liberty for the remainder of her life.

Because of the double homicides' notoriety locally, the court moved the trial to Waterloo on a change of venue.

Anyone who has visited the courthouse already knows the halls and offices buzz with activity on most ordinary work days. Introducing a mega-media trial into the mix for the better part of a month, then, is no small request.

To their credit, the hosts performed admirably. Parties involved in the trial complimented the courthouse staff, sheriff's office and jail and various courtroom aides.

A word of recognition, too, for the jurors. It was clear to observers the community's representatives took their responsibility seriously. They showed up as required, paid attention, debated the issues of fact and rendered a verdict.

Supino was facing two counts of first-degree murder. The 12 men and women who heard the evidence found Supino not guilty.

Whether you agree with the decision or not, jurors fulfilled their obligation and supported a cornerstone of individual freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights.

For three weeks, 12 ordinary citizens from Black Hawk County were between the government's power and a citizen's liberty. That should not be taken lightly or ignored.

Author Andrew Guthrie Ferguson eloquently explained the duty, which he describes as one of "our most basic national principles."

"The simple fact is that jury duty is one of the few constitutional rights that every citizen has the opportunity to experience," he wrote.

"Jury experience exists as one of the remaining connecting threads in a wonderfully diverse United States. It links us to our founding principles and challenges us to live up to them."

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