CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some of the jurors who found Rhonda Stewart guilty of first-degree murder in 2009 say they would have considered her case differently if they'd heard testimony of her abuse.
Twelve jurors deliberated for about five hours in December of that year and found her guilty of shooting her husband Sammy Stewart to death in his hospital bed a few months earlier. She was sentenced to life in prison with mercy after those jurors decided she could come before a parole board after serving 15 years.
But their verdict was overturned by the West Virginia Supreme Court on appeal and a new trial was to be held. Instead, Stewart, 56, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge or second-degree murder with a firearm.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman heard testimony of years of abuse suffered by Stewart and her children and sentenced her to 10 years to be served on home confinement. She will receive credit for four years already served.
"Yes, I've been following the case," said Peter Hetu, one of those jurors. He now lives in Arizona. "I am kind of glad about the turnout.
"I never did feel good about the first trial," Hetu said. "Everything was suppressed. We knew there was some abuse, we didn't know the details."
What jurors never heard was that Stewart alleged physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband, even after they were separated years ago. Those incidents included being raped at knifepoint.
"I'm kind of glad she had another chance," Hetu said of the Supreme Court decision. "I still have a problem with her shooting him, but now I also understand and have more empathy for her.
"I feel like a prison term probably wouldn't do any good," Hetu said. "I think she's very remorseful about it. From her actions in the courtroom, I don't think she was in her right mind."
Hetu, a retired schoolteacher, said he wished jurors could have listened to testimony about her abuse.
"It might have changed the way the jury felt about it," he said.