The summer months usually mean relaxation for Kim Willhite, a Spanish teacher at Alma High School. But for her and eleven fellow jurors, this summer will not be one they'll soon forget.
It began on a Sunday night after church for Willhite when she called the Franklin County courthouse to inquire about jury duty. The case? She had no idea.
“My mom said that she thought it was the murder trial,” she said. “I had no idea what I was getting into.”
Willhite's mom was right. She, along with eleven others, faced the unenviable task of determining the fate of 21-year-old Kevin Jones, the man accused of murdering his longtime girlfriend, Nona Dirksmeyer.
“She was a Tech student and a pageant girl; that was the extent of my knowledge,” Willhite said. “And I believe that God had put me there for a reason.”
Willhite says the jurors constantly held themselves in check during the trial, focusing only on facts and removing opinions and personal feelings.
“The biggest thing was praying every night that I would listen and understand,” she said.
“At times there was laughter. One attorney might make a mistake. If one attorney forgot something, the other helped out,” she added. “You really felt like they were both passionate about what they were doing. You can't imagine the amount of evidence we had to go through.”
But in the end, Willhite says the evidence just didn't point to Jones as the killer, so they found him not guilty.
Everything the prosecution introduced, there was reasonable doubt,” she said. “And you knew there were things that weren't there; there were so many holes.”
Legal problems aren't over for Jones. Dirksmeyer's family says they will file a civil suit against him.