The death penalty is reserved for the most heinous of crimes and after more than five hours of deliberations, the jury determined it was the only punishment suitable for Jeffrey Weisheit.
The verdict capped off an emotionally taxing three weeks for the family and friends of the victims as well as the family of Jeffrey Weisheit. More than two weeks of testimony culminated to Weisheit's conviction on Tuesday.
The jury needed less than two hours to convict Weisheit of setting fire to his house and murdering Alyssa and Caleb Lynch in April 2010.
In three days of testimony in the penalty phase, the jury needed more than five hours to recommend the death penalty. The judge will make the final determination next month at a sentencing hearing.
When Clark County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Moore read the verdict a few minutes after 6 p.m. local time, it sparked an outpouring of emotion from both sides of the courtroom. Weisheit's family, which made up a majority of the gallery, stayed long after the verdict was read, crying and consoling one another.
Despite all this emotion around him, Weisheit remained callously calm. According to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, when Weisheit was wheeled into a holding room after the verdict, he reportedly looked up at the deputy and said 'what took them so long?' in reference to the men and women of the jury. Sources also say Weisheit smiled as the verdict was being read and maintained that smirk as he was escorted out of the courtroom. Sources also say Weisheit was happy with the verdict because the death penalty is what Weisheit wanted.
Also, according to sources with direct knowledge of the deliberations, one particular juror was holding out for the option of life in prison without the possibility of parole. That juror, accourding to sources, said it was his belief that if Weisheit was put into general population in prison, Weisheit would suffer. The juror believed Weisheit could potentially be abused or assaulted by other inmates and that the death penalty was 'too lenient.'
Furthermore, sources say that juror apparently told the other jury members if they were 11-1 in favor of the death penalty, he would change his vote.
As soon as court was over, Judge Moore signed an order to send Weisheit back to the Vandreburgh County Jail. Weisheit apparently also told deputies he didn't want to go back to the Vanderburgh County Jail and repeatedly asked why he had to go back. Also, sources say Clark County Jail confinement officers were concerned Weisheit would harm himself after they found multiple razors stashed away in his cell.
These are the latest developments in a verdict that is three years, two months and ten days in the making.
For weeks, months and years, the prosecution prepared their case against Jeffrey Weisheit. But nothing could prepare them or anyone in the gallery for the case's conclusion, it's closure and it's finality.
"It was not so much a victory," said Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann. "This was a very difficult case. You can't bring these children back. All we wanted to do was finally get into court and tell our side of the story and present the facts to the jury and have them make a recommendation."
A few minutes after 6 o'clock Friday night local time, the jury reached that recommendation: the death penalty.
It was a decision that came to be as the time ticked away for more than five hours. It was a decision that came more than three years after Weisheit set fire to a home and snuffed out the young, innocent lives of his girlfriend's two children, Caleb and Alyssa.
It was a decision that didn't come easily for the jury and the people who would be impacted by it.
It's been a long time coming," Hermann said. "We've had a lot of hearings, a lot of time, we're just glad to get to this point. It's difficult for everyone involved. My heart goes out to the victims' family but also Jeff's family because this is a very, very trying thing for them."
As trying as the trial was, many friends and family members tried to hold it together but couldn't. Who could blame them? You could say justice won, but really, you could also say no one wins in a case like this. One family, the Lynch family, still grieves over the loss of their two children. A different family, the Weisheit family, will soon grieve over their son's potential execution.
As time seemed to stand still as the verdict was read, both of those families shared the courtroom and the onslaught of emotion.
"The Lynch family, obviously, this is a very difficult time reliving all this," Hermann said. "Hopefully, it brings some sense of closure. Unfortunately, there's nothing this court can do or anything we can do to reverse what happened."
For the last three years, and most recently the last five weeks, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Gary Schutte and Special Deputy Prosecutor Charlie Berger spent countless hours preparing for this case. In his closing statements, Berger told the jury this was the most important trial of his illustrious, storied career. The State had several pieces of key evidence including the rolls of duct tape found in Weisheit's vehicle. The State was able to prove that duct tape matched the duct tape used to hog-tie and bind Caleb Lynch to the bed.
With all this damnit evidence placed against him, Weisheit didn't do himself nor his attorneys any favors by going against their wishes and taking the stand in his own defense on Monday. A lengthy and meticulous cross examination by Schutte on Monday showed Weisheit's cold, callous and ambivalent demeanor. This likely played a factor in the jury's recommendation.
"When you came into the courtroom, you had no idea you'd be this close to evil," Berger told the jury. "The lives of Alyssa and Caleb were stolen by Jeffrey Weisheit in the most horrific manner anyone can imagine."
Afterward, Hermann had nothing but the highest praise for Schutte, Berger and the Clark County jury.
"This was a very important decision," Hermann said. "I'm glad they took the time to make it. I can't say enough about the job Gary Schutte and Charlie Berger did here."
For the next few weeks, months and years, family and friends will continue to remember Alyssa and Caleb Lynch for how they lived instead of how they died. But as the doors begin to close on this case, Jeffrey Weisheit moves closer to the consequences and inches nearer to his own mortality.
The judge's final determination of Weisheit's sentence will be made at a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 11. At that hearing, family members from both sides will be allowed to provide impact statements.
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