Whether or not Zachary Gibian is convicted of murder again, Gerard Whelan was relieved to know this much: He would no longer have to feel guilty about sending the young man to prison for a crime Whelan was not convinced Gibian committed.
"Good," Whelan, 75, said upon learning Thursday that an appellate court had overturned the verdict he helped reach. Whelan, of Hauppauge, held out for a week before he said he eventually crumbled beneath the pressure of fellow jurors and voting on Dec. 16, 2006, to convict Gibian of murdering his stepfather Scott Nager with a samurai sword.
It was a decision that has haunted him since. "Even today I said, 'Wow. What's it been - four years now - that he's been imprisoned?' " Whelan said. "He may be guilty, but I don't believe he got a real chance from that jury."
Whelan, a retired truck driver and union president who lives a block from the home where prosecutors say Gibian nearly decapitated Nager, said his regret set in as he spoke with Gibian's lawyer, William Keahon, following the verdict.
Whelan said he was troubled to learn from Keahon that prosecutors chose not to call Laura Nager as a witness because she was a potential liability.
Whelan also said a fellow juror used "bully" tactics to sway others to convict. The appellate court raised issues about possible misconduct by that juror in its decision. "If I had known things then that I found out after the trial, they could have broken my legs and they wouldn't have gotten me to change my decision," Whelan said.