Journalist dish details of Thurman trial

May 7, 2008 6:20:12 PM PDT
A Wall Street Journal reporter is sharing details about her experience as a juror in the Uma Thurman stalking trial, including some jurors' suspicions about whether her testimony was genuine. In a story published on the front page of Wednesday's paper, Emily Steel discusses how she and 11 other jurors arrived at the decision to convict former mental patient Jack Jordan of stalking and harassing Thurman. The 37-year-old out-of-work lifeguard and pool cleaner was found guilty Tuesday on one count of stalking and one count of aggravated harassment, and faces up to a year in jail.

"Our debate centered on a surprisingly complex question: Where is the line between obsession and menace?" she writes.

In November 2005, Jordan showed up on the Manhattan set of Thurman's movie "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" with a package that included a card with a picture of a child praying, a letter that said "my hands should be on your body at all times," a photo of a headless bride and Jordan's expired California driver's license, Steel says.

"The package generated one of the aggravated-harassment charges," Steel says. "That has a different legal standard than stalking. The judge told us we had to decide whether the package was intended to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm her."

Steel says there was enough reasonable doubt that jurors couldn't convict him on that charge, and that "nearly two-thirds of the jurors said the purpose of the card was to express his love."

Observing Jordan's testimony, Steel says she "saw him as a lovesick individual who was trying to prove himself to her with these cards and objects, which he described as artworks."

The weeklong trial featured riveting testimony from Thurman, 38, who told the jury she was "completely freaked out" by Jordan's behavior and called the experience "a nightmare."

Steel says the jurors believed Thurman but wondered whether she "could have exaggerated her fear."

"The fact that she was a famous movie star made us partly charmed, partly suspicious," Steel says. "One juror jokingly said Ms. Thurman isn't that great an actress, but that her delivery on the witness stand was the most heartfelt performance he'd ever seen her give."

Jordan showed up at Thurman's Greenwich Village doorstep last August, rang the door bell repeatedly and slipped a letter through the mail slot. He was arrested in October, and had been living out of his car in Manhattan.

"The decision was easy for us: The nonstop doorbell-ringing, accompanied by a letter like this, clearly sounded like intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm," Steel says. "We decided on a guilty charge of one count of aggravated harassment."

The judge ordered a psychiatric exam before Jordan's next court date on June 2.

Jordan, one of eight children, lives with his parents in Gaithersburg, Md. He testified they had him committed to a mental facility in late 2005 after learning he was being investigated because of his obsession with Thurman.