Donna Moonda

Donna Moonda

The seven women and five men who sat in judgment of Donna J. Moonda asked themselves this question: “Who do you want to meet in 13 years walking down the street?” said a woman juror who did not want to be named.

Their hypothetical choices were Mrs. Moonda or Damian R. Bradford. Their answer: Mrs. Moonda.

The juror was referring to the fact that Bradford, 26, of Beaver County, was sentenced to 17èyears for shooting Mrs. Moonda’s husband, Dr. Gulam H. Moonda, 69, of Hermitage, and could get out before he turns 40 if he is awarded all the credit possible for good time. Yet jurors had only two sentencing options for Mrs. Moonda: execution or life in prison without parole. They chose life in prison.

Jurors asked if they could sentence her to something else, but were told by U.S. District Court Judge David D. Dowd Jr., Akron, that they had no other options.

In considering a sentence for Mrs. Moonda, jurors could not get over the fact that Bradford was to serve what they considered a light sentence.

“The 12 of us were uncomfortable with the fact that they made such a sweetheart of a deal with Damian Bradford and left us with no choice other than death or life in prison (for Mrs. Moonda),” the juror said.

Bradford’s 17è-year sentence was recommended by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Cleveland. Prosecutors said they could not have prosecuted Mrs. Moonda without Bradford’s cooperation in the investigation and testimony in Mrs. Moonda’s trial.

“We felt bad that they left him off so lightly,” the juror said. “He should have had more time. It would have been easier if the roles of the two shooters were reversed.”

The juror said she disagreed with Bradford’s assertion that he is not a violent man.

“I think it’s an act of violence to put a gun to someone’s head,” she said.

The juror said she did not think it was fair that U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez had the power to make the death penalty an option.

“It wasn’t quite fair that Washington, D.C., set the mandate for life in prison or the death penalty,” she said.

Prosecutors said Gonzalez’s decision was consistent with how such serious cases have been handled nationwide.

The juror called Dr. Moonda’s death a “tragic case” and described Mrs. Moonda as someone who “went down the wrong path” and should have divorced her husband.

The juror disagreed with prosecutors that Mrs. Moonda wanted her husband dead so she could have his money. She already had access to a lot of money through her husband, but did not lead a lavish lifestyle.

“I don’t think the money meant anything to her,” the juror said. “It did to Mr. Bradford. I don’t think the money ever was important to her until Damian.”

The juror added that she has no doubt about Mrs. Moonda’s role in her husband’s death.

“A viable man is dead because of the actions of two people,” she said.

The juror said she was surprised at being picked for the jury, and was not eager to serve.

She also said it was difficult to avoid the newspaper and the television during the trial, and to not discuss the case, although she understood why Dowd ordered them not to.

“This gets in the middle of everybody’s life,” the juror said. “It takes on a life of its own.”

The juror said she has not wanted to discuss the case with those close to her, even though she is now free to do so.

“My family and friends respected the fact that I couldn’t talk about it,” she said. “Even that the trial is all over with, they’ve been very respectful that I’m not ready to talk about it.”

The responsibility of a juror has weighed heavily on her, she said.

“It’s an awesome feeling to know that you have sentenced someone to jail for the rest of her life,” the juror said. “You can’t feel good about that. It’s difficult for me personally to judge another human being. It’s something that I wouldn’t want to do again.”

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