Longtime local insurance agent Ron Crawford said he's satisfied with the work that he and 11 other "regular citizens" put into ensuring that the world will forever be protected from two-time convicted murderer David Ray Taylor.
Crawford served as jury foreman in a monthlong, two-phase trial that ended Thursday in Lane County Circuit Court. The seven-woman, five-man panel ruled that Taylor should be sentenced to death, after previously convicting him of robbing two banks and murdering 22-year-old Eugene resident Celestino Gutierrez Jr. in 2012.
Judge Charles Zennaché will impose the death sentence formally at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Taylor's attorney and defense witnesses proposed that he could live out his days in the Oregon State Penitentiary without endangering others. But the jury didn't agree and instead concluded that the only way to keep others safe from Taylor, 58, is to send him to death row.
"His threat to the other inmates, the (prison) staff and visitors was a very real deal," Crawford said.
Jurors spent less than 90 minutes Thursday in deliberations before deciding Taylor's fate.
Crawford said "the biggest part of the conversation" went into discussing the second of three questions that the group needed to answer before returning a verdict: Had prosecutors proven beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a greater than 50 percent chance that Taylor would commit future violence?
The jury agreed that burden of proof had been met, and also cast unanimous "yes" votes on the other two issues: Whether Taylor had deliberately killed Gutierrez, and whether he should be sentenced to death.
"Obviously, we were on the same page," Crawford said of the jury.
He added that testimony from three current state prison inmates -- two convicted murderers and an admitted rapist -- who appeared as character witnesses for the defense "probably did (Taylor) more harm than good, because it really made you believe that going back to prison wasn't going to be a punishment for him."
Taylor previously served 27 years in prison for the slaying of a Eugene gas station attendant in 1977. He was granted parole in 2004, and released from post-prison supervision three years later.
The inmates all know Taylor from his time behind bars, and spoke highly of him in court. But they also testified that Taylor, because of his criminal history, might return to the penitentiary with some measure of status. Prosecutors said his position in the prison hierarchy could allow him to influence other inmates to commit violence.
"Because he'd be higher in the pecking order, it sounded like he'd have a fairly decent life in prison," Crawford said.
Crawford praised the work of prosecutors and police involved in the case, and said he felt that Taylor's attorneys had an extremely difficult job, considering that trial evidence left little question regarding Taylor's guilt.
"I think the defense did what they could to establish reasonable doubt, and that was an impossible task," Crawford said. "We looked for reasonable doubt, and we found none."
The jury convicted Taylor of three counts of aggravated murder, along with charges of kidnapping and robbing Gutierrez and abusing his corpse. He was also found guilty of 22 felony robbery charges in connection with two bank robberies in Lane County, and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Jurors acquitted Taylor on a fourth charge of aggravated murder, instead deciding to convict him on a lesser charge of intentional murder. That count related to an allegation that Gutierrez was killed after or while being tortured.
Crawford said that while the jury believed that Gutierrez suffered a series of painful injuries before Taylor wrapped a metal chain around his neck and choked him to death, they didn't think that the killer sought to torture his victim.
"We didn't think it was proven that he intended to torture," Crawford said of Taylor. "We thought there were three or four inept ways of trying to kill him. Did Tino experience intense pain, and was it a tortuous act? Absolutely. But was it David's intent? I think it was David's intent to kill."
According to trial testimony, Taylor enlisted two much-younger acquaintances to lure Gutierrez to his home off Highway 99, where the victim was slain. Hours later, the three suspects used Gutierrez's car as a getaway vehicle in a violent, takeover-style robbery at a bank in Mapleton. Gutierrez's dismembered remains were later found buried in a forested area southwest of Eugene.
Jurors viewed a number of photographs of the remains, heard one of Taylor's co-conspirators recount the murder in horrifying detail, and listened to testimony from members of Gutierrez's family. Crawford said that his eyes welled with tears while listening to the victim's father on the witness stand, and that video and audio recordings of a June 8, 2012, armed bank robbery in Creswell also made an emotional impact on him.
After spending four weeks absorbing evidence in the capital murder case while being barred from openly discussing it with each other or anyone else, the 12 jurors collectively declined Thursday to take up court officials on their offer to provide them counseling, Crawford said.
"We all concurred that we really didn't need to do that," he said, before adding that his experience with the case "is something that I will carry with me."
In Crawford's opinion, the jury arrived at its verdicts in a collaborative, responsible manner.
"We had a good group, and I think that we were as compassionate and as objective as we could be," he said. "The bottom line is that I feel very comfortable, as do the other jury members, that we made the right decisions. And if I had a son or daughter in the defendant's chair, I would want a jury like the one that was selected in this case."