Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mistrial in Murder Case Juror Misconduct Prompts Ruling

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mistrial in Murder Case Juror Misconduct Prompts Ruling

Article excerpt

DOUGLAS -- Citing widespread misconduct among prospective jurors, a judge declared a mistrial yesterday in the death penalty murder trial of a Brunswick man charged with killing a Bacon County convenience store clerk in 1994.

A visibly angry Superior Court Judge Stephen Jackson halted the proceedings in the midst of the fifth day of jury selection in the trial of Joey Robert Brant.

"I don't think Mr. Brant can receive a fair and impartial trial, therefore I declare a mistrial," Jackson said.

Yesterday was expected to be the final day of jury selection in the case. Instead, Jackson, prosecutors and Brant's defense team questioned prospective jurors about their conduct and the actions of fellow jurors.

Their investigation revealed that many potential jurors ignored and violated a court edict not to discuss the case either among themselves or with outsiders.

Jackson did not say when or where the trial -- which had been moved to Douglas because of pretrial publicity and community outrage in Bacon County -- will be held.

In declaring the mistrial, he said the improper conduct began Sept. 7 when the residents were summoned for initial questioning in the case. But it did not come to light for two days.

Since then, the judge and court officials have been working to pinpoint the extent of the problem.

He said the integrity of the jury pool consisting of almost 200 Coffee County residents had been destroyed by a potentially prejudicial remark about Brant and by gossiping about the case within the panel and with people in the community.

The judge said the remark was made Sept. 7 by someone in the back of the courtroom who responded loudly, "just go ahead and hang him," when court officials informed the jury pool they might be selected for the Brant case.

Jackson said court authorities have received information about the person who made the remark but he did not reveal a name.

The misconduct occurred and spread despite repeated admonitions from Jackson, who warned potential jurors not to talk about the case -- an instruction invoked in all criminal and civil trials. …

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