ABC News(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Three jurors from the Vanderbilt University rape trial said the evidence that played the biggest role in deciding a guilty verdict was video that prosecutors claimed proved four former Vanderbilt football players sexually assaulted a female classmate.
"As soon as we saw the videos and photographic evidence...we knew exactly who was guilty of what and what we were going to come back with," said juror Todd Easter. "What we knew is that a terrible crime had occurred."
The jury took just three hours Tuesday to decide Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were each guilty of four counts of aggravated rape, one count of attempted aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Vandenburg was also found guilty of tampering with evidence and unlawful photography after prosecutors claimed he recorded the sexual assault on his phone, shared it with friends and then tried to cover it up.
Three jurors from the trial sat down with ABC News' 20/20 for an interview the day after the verdict to talk about the case.
"We are absolutely confident in that we made the right decision for every count," said Easter, who was the juror tasked with reading the verdict for the court.
The graphic sexual assault case played out in a Nashville courtroom over 12 days, as prosecutors presented surveillance video they said showed Vandenburg carrying the victim into his dorm, accompanied by Batey and two other former players, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie. Jurors also had to watch cell phone video that prosecutors claimed Vandenburg recorded as the sexual assault went on in his dorm room.
Prosecutors said the victim, a 21-year-old former neuroscience major and dance team member at the university, was drunk and passed out when the 2013 incident occurred.
Juror Dr. Corbi Milligan told 20/20 that she was "horrified and utterly disgusted" when she watched the footage.
"I do hold [Vandenburg] criminally responsible for what occurred to [the victim] in that room," Milligan said. "It was horrific. ...She was horribly victimized, and as difficult as it was for us to have to render that verdict, it was justice, and it had to be done."
Another juror, Dr. Deirde Young, said the footage made her feel "awful."
"I asked myself, 'how could they do this to that young lady?'" Young added. "There can't be enough explanation to me. I don't know, I think they need to do some real soul searching. I've never experienced anything like these young men."
The defense argued the young men were not guilty of rape, but rather of making a mistake. Batey's lawyer, Worrick Robinson, claimed that college culture put his client in the situation, but the jurors said they weren't buying that argument.
"It's not a defense against a crime, and I think that's the core thing," Milligan said. "Several people, men and women, were seen on the surveillance camera and saw the victim in this state, and no one stopped to think, 'Is she going to be OK?'"
When the jury was dismissed for deliberations, Young said they all broke down in the jury room.
"Maintaining our composure -- it was difficult for all of us," Young said. "I tell you that composure crumbled when the doors closed."
Two other ex-players accused of being involved in the incident, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, also face rape and sexual battery charges, but have not yet gone to trial. They have pleaded not guilty.
Vandenburg's childhood friends in California, to whom he sent the videos of the assault, were charged with tampering with evidence after he implored them to get rid of their cell phones. Last week, Joey Quinzio pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Miles Finley was offered the same plea agreement, but has so far declined it.
Another Vanderbilt football player, Chris Boyd, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for helping carry the unconscious victim into Vandenburg's dorm.
"I'm curious to know the people we saw on the surveillance video -- the multiple people who saw her -- what are they thinking now," Milligan said. "We are civilized human beings. The rules and responsibility of living in this society is you look out for your fellow man."
Vandenburg and Batey will be sentenced on March 6 and could face decades in prison.
After the verdict was announced this week, Nicholas Zeppos, the chancellor of Vanderbilt University, told ABC News in a statement, "I am deeply troubled that some students who knew or should have known about the incident that led to this week's convictions failed to take any positive action. This is not the culture at Vanderbilt, and it must never be repeated." Read the chancellor's full statement at the end of this article.
The victim in this case, who testified against her attackers, released a statement thanking police and prosecutors for bringing them to justice, and calling them her heroes. For District Attorney Glenn Funk, the guilty verdict carries a profound message to victims of sexual crimes.
"I hope this verdict sends a message to victims of sexual violence...that you will never be alone, that we will back you up, and that ultimately the system will work and you will be able to get justice," Funk said.
Full Statement from the Chancellor of Vanderbilt to ABC News:
Earlier this week, a Nashville jury found two former Vanderbilt students guilty of a vicious attack against a fellow student. The victim showed exceptional courage and strength in pursuing justice through the criminal trial. At this time, we are called upon again to consider as a community how we can ensure that what happened to the survivor of this terrible crime never happens again.
The heinous conduct described at trial was not the product of Vanderbilt's culture. On the contrary, such conduct is the very opposite of the values Vanderbilt stands for and our students hold dear. We abhor sexual misconduct, and we subject every student to the same standards.
Yet we must acknowledge that sexual assaults occur on college campuses across the country, and that Vanderbilt is no exception. But Vanderbilt can make a difference, and we must make a difference, because the consequences of sexual violence—shattered dreams and shattered lives—are intolerable.
As your Chancellor, I am personally committed to ending sexual misconduct at Vanderbilt, giving victims the support and assistance they need and sanctioning those found responsible. To end sexual misconduct at Vanderbilt we must all commit ourselves every day to our values, including respecting and caring for one another and holding accountable those who violate our standards. The university has taken numerous concrete steps to address sexual misconduct, including updating the university's policy against Sexual Misconduct and Other Forms of Power-Based Personal Violence; requiring all incoming students to complete PETSA and Alcohol.Edu training; making sure students and responsible employees know how and to whom to report sexual misconduct incidents; encouraging all members of our community to participate in the Green Dot bystander intervention program; opening a new Project Safe Center; and adding to our staff of prevention educators and victim resource specialists. We will administer a new campus climate survey this spring. And we will continue our comprehensive ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the importance of every student intervening when another student is at risk or in distress.
We can all commit to this never happening again, but ending sexual misconduct requires more. It requires commitment to our core principles, which demand that sexual harassment and sexual assault will never be ignored or downplayed or get lost in a bureaucracy. We must individually and collectively create a culture of transparency, support and cooperation.
The university's response to this tragic incident demonstrates our commitment to these principles. When the university reviewed surveillance video that raised suspicions about the actions of certain students, we immediately commenced an investigation and promptly reported our concerns to the Nashville police. We have worked closely with the Davidson County District Attorney's Office ever since. Not for a second did anyone consider sweeping the incident under the rug or according special treatment to our student-athletes. Indeed, if not for actions taken by Vanderbilt, the incident may never have been discovered and the defendants never prosecuted.
I will not be satisfied until campus sexual assaults are a thing of the past. And I want Vanderbilt to be at the forefront of that effort. I have therefore authorized Project Safe to augment its educational and prevention programs and victim support. Please visit the Project Safe Center or click on the Project Safe website to learn more. I encourage every member of the Vanderbilt community to get involved with Green Dot at Vanderbilt. Attend an upcoming Green Dot training session, the next of which is Feb. 20, or click on the Green Dot website to request information about bystander intervention. Make a personal commitment to stand up, not stand by, when you or another member of our community is at risk.
We come to Vanderbilt to be part of a community of exceptional individuals who learn from, support and take care of one another. We must never forget this. I am deeply troubled that some students who knew or should have known about the incident that led to this week's convictions failed to take any positive action. This is not the culture at Vanderbilt, and it must never be repeated.
I urge anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct, or who knows a victim, to contact the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action & Disability Services department, whose director, Anita Jenious, is Vanderbilt's Title IX coordinator. EAD investigates sexual misconduct reports, coordinates interim services for students who need them and determines responsibility for violations of the university's Sexual Misconduct policy. Whether the incident occurred yesterday, last week or last year, let EAD know so it can take action.
Above all, I ask each and every student to contribute the best of yourselves to our Vanderbilt community. Vanderbilt must and will play a leadership role in ending sexual misconduct. But it is only by coming together as a community that we can effect the deep and lasting change that this moment demands.
Watch the full story on ABC News' 20/20 Friday night at 12:35 a.m. ET.
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