Youngest juror in Raynella Dossett-Leath case speaks out

10:22 PM, Jan 26, 2010   |    comments
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  • Miranda Linkous was the youngest juror on the Raynella-Dossett Leath jury. She talks about what led to a guilty verdict from the panel.
  • Raynella Dossett-Leath in court

On Tuesday morning at around 8 a.m., Raynella Dossett-Leath arrived at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville. The maximum security prison could be her home for the rest of her days.

A sequestered Knox County jury convicted the retired nurse on Monday for the first degree murder of David Leath. Judge Richard Baumgartner immediately sentenced Dossett-Leath to life in prison.

Jurors were able to go back home to their families on Monday night.

Getting out of the courtroom allowed the youngest juror on the panel to absorb the experience. It was full of anxiety for her.

"Because I was so young, I mean why do they expect me to make such a big decision?" Miranda Linkous asked herself after she was selected to be on the jury for the murder trial. "It was very scary."

Linkous, 20, is still trying to sort out and deal with all the emotional weight of the difficult decision to send a 61-year-old woman to prison and to separate her from her family.

"Knowing how much her family loved her and having to put her away, knowing everything that her family's been through with their father, Mr. Dossett's death with the loss of their brother Ed, it was really heard to put her away, because they love her so much, and they've been through so much," Linkous said.

Ed Dossett died in 1992. Dossett-Leath is scheduled to go to trial for his death in August.

The Solway widow also buried her 11-year old son, after he was killed in a car accident with his older sister Maggie driving. She was only 15 at the time.

However, juror number 11 also related to David Leath. "Learning more about Dave, he was an awesome guy. He reminds me so much of my dad," Linkous said.

Although the juror was torn by emotions, she chose to focus on proof instead.

"I didn't really want to have a sympathy vote. I wanted just to stick with the facts," Linkous said.

The jury dissected the defense's timeline of what Dossett-Leath said she did the day her husband died. Testimony showed the defendant told one person David Leath was at home sick in bed. However, she later called Leath's daughter Cindy Wilkerson and asked her if she had seen her father, because he had not eaten his oatmeal that morning, and she did not want him to work out at the gym on an empty stomach.

"They just had to prove that she wasn't there, that she had an alibi, which, really, she didn't," Linkous said.

During deliberations, the jury first asked to hear Dossett-Leath's frantic phone call, because the panel was confused about whether officers were investigating a shooting death or suicide.

After listening to it a second time, the panel agreed dispatchers gave the differing information, not the officers on the scene.

The panel also asked to see the crime scene video that showed Leath's body in his bed. However, Linkous said it was the undisturbed evidence near the bed that revealed even more holes in the defendant's story. "The phone was behind the food tray, and if she was in hysteria wanting to call, she would have knocked everything over."

Jurors also requested to examine the gun twice during their deliberations. "Holding that gun really set things in place, like this is the gun that took somebody's life," Linkous remembered.

Investigators did not find any blood on Leath's wife, who was at the scene when they arrived. That lack of blood helped Linkous to make her decision about the retired nurse.

"The one thing that bothered me most is that David was lying there dead, and her being a nurse, she didn't try to resuscitate him," Linkous said. "If it was me I'd be in the bed doing CPR, everything I could, just in case there was one breath in him."

After listening to all the proof, Linkous believes Dossett-Leath killed her husband to protect her inheritance, which included her first husband's 166-acre farm. The couple had mirror wills and quit claim deeds that would give the surviving spouse everything.

Leath's daughter, Cindy Wilkerson, and Raynella Dossett-Leath have been battling over the Leath farm for nearly 7 years.

"She [Raynella Dossett-Leath] does look like a little old lady who would go pick somebody up and help them if they needed help, but she also looked like a person who if you mess with her family, you're going down," Linkous said.

Sitting on a jury in a gruesome and emotional case has given Linkous a new perspective on her life with her families. "Just say 'hey, I love these people and they are my family and I never know when it's going to be my last day with them'."

The college student said there was no fighting among jurors.  Instead they helped each other to sort through the evidence and testimonies.

When jurors would go back to their hotel rooms in the evenings, Linkous said they would spend time together in a community room to watch sports, play games and to build friendships.

Linkous said as soon as she got home Monday night she did more research on Dossett-Leath. She plans to continue to follow her story as the widow faces another trial for the death of Ed Dossett in August. 









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