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Videotape, flannel cloth convince jury


'We do definitely love Candace,' juror says after the trial

Peggy Lowe and Michelle Ames

Denver Rocky Mountain News

A videotape of the crime, a blue flannel sheet and a little girl named Candace. Those three factors were what persuaded a Jefferson County District Court jury to convict Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder in Candace Newmaker's death. "We do definitely love Candace. We've come to love her," juror Jim Ball of Arvada said.

"Given our human frailties it's hard to envision any good coming from a situation like this. But now Candace is in a different place. Now she's at peace."

The six men and six women who deliberated five hours said the videotape was a terrorizing testament to the "rebirthing" session performed in April 2000. Georgia Connor, an Arvada juror who placed her face in her hands and wept during the first playing of the tape, said she is still horrified by the crime.

"I don't understand how any one could do that to a child," she said, crying again Friday night. Dan Kaiser, a juror from Edgewater, said he will never forget the treatment of 10-year-old Candace in both rebirthing and holding therapies, when Candace was restrained, yelled at and forced to kick.

Kaiser said he often thought of his own 13-year-old daughter while watching the tapes. "There wasn't any doubt in my mind that somebody had to pay for this," he said.

The panel also took the advice of both the defense attorneys and the prosecutors and tried to breathe through the cotton sheet that Candace was wrapped in. They removed it from the plastic evidence bag and all took turns, Ball said.

"We took the blanket out of the wrap and put it against our faces," Ball said. "It was hard for us to breathe through."

The panel members were unswayed by testimony of Watkins and Ponder, who tried to explain away what happened on the tape. They denied they pressed against Candace or that they were cruel to her.

"There's no way to deceive it when we saw it with our own eyes," said Kendra Docker. "It's almost like they thought we were blind."

It was also hard to face the case itself, said jury foreman Tim Bellio. Most jurors landed on the panel because they hadn't read about the case in the media.

The jurors said they bonded through the three-week trial. They weren't allowed to talk to each other about the videotape and other evidence under orders from Jefferson County District Court Judge Jane Tidball, and that was hard.

So they talked about their own kids, their jobs, their interests. And they joked that they had been brought together by a "trauma bond," a term used in the trial to describe an attachment that a captive often feels with a kidnapper.

"It was a real tight bond," said Marcia Hagan. Even though they felt the pair was guilty, some noted their verdict wasn't easy. Hagan said it was a long walk from the jury room to the courtroom to hear their decision as it was read.

"My heart was just pounding, and my knees were shaking," she said. "But then I looked up and saw no remorse in Mrs. Watkins' eyes, and what we decided was reconfirmed."

Before Kaiser left the courthouse Friday night, she stopped to hug and cry with Mary and David Davis, Candace's grandparents.

"Did we do good for you?" Kaiser asked them, shaking his hand. "Yes," Mary Davis answered. "Our family and Candace can never thank you enough." "Candace is in our family now, too," Kaiser replied.

2001 Apr 21