The tall, enigmatic fellow with shocks of white hair and an oil man’s swagger seemed that natural choice for jury foreman, but he told his fellow jurors he wasn’t interested in the spotlight.
He spent lunch breaks thumbing through the newspaper and trading pleasantries with other jurors, while a strapping man with an ear piece looked on. It was several coy answers and many Google searches before anyone learned he was Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, now President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as secretary of State.
Emily Roden, a small business owner in Denton, Texas, served on a jury in Denton County with Tillerson nine years ago, and recounted the experience for The Dallas Morning News.
The case concerned a young girl who accused her mother’s boyfriend of sexual assault. Roden describes the girl as “scared and deeply wounded,” who relied on a local nonprofit for emotional support and legal aid throughout the ordeal. (RELATED: Tillerson Won’t Be Asked To Submit Tax Returns)
Though a comfortable majority of the jurors were convinced of the defendant’s guilt by the time the jury began deliberating, the defense had sown the seeds of reasonable doubt among a few holdouts. A hung jury was well within the realm of possibility. That, Roden writes, is when Tillerson made his appeal. She says:
That’s when Tillerson began to speak. Humbly, delicately and without an ounce of condescension toward those who disagreed, he began walking us all through the details of the case. I even recall being moved by his thorough explanation about the nature of doubt and the standards set forth by our justice system.
With great patience, this man who strikes multibillion-dollar deals with foreign heads of state brought our scrappy jury together — to bring a sexual predator to justice and to deliver justice for a scared and deeply wounded little girl.
After the guilty verdict was delivered, Tillerson, at Roden’s urging, made a “generous donation” to the nonprofit that counseled the victim through her recovery process and the trial. Roden notes that she did not vote for the president-elect, nor did she mean her story to serve as an endorsement of Tillerson’s appointment to lead the U.S. Department of State. Instead, she sought to push back, or at least qualify, allegations that he is a corrupt and unscrupulous businessman. She writes:
But during a recent news show, I heard the term “corrupt” applied to this man who I spent five days with back in 2007.
All I know is that this man who holds one of the most powerful positions in the world and clearly has the means and ability to side-step his jury responsibilities, served as a normal citizen without complaint or pretense.
I know that a scared little girl who was finally persuaded to come public with her account of abuse was inches away from a decision that would have sided with her abuser, yet this man put his negotiation skills to a noble use, and justice was served.
Tillerson’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will begin next month.
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