Juror is dismissed after discussing murder case

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A Superior Court judge dismissed a juror Thursday from a murder trial for discussing the case with other jurors and possibly proclaiming his belief that the defendants are innocent.

Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. said the man was told, along with all jurors, prior to the start of the trial for Willie Bernard Butler Jr. and Martin Napoleon Holmes that he was not to discuss the case before jury deliberations and not to form an opinion before all the evidence was presented.

Judge Blanchard, who would identify the man only as Juror 12, said the juror appeared to have violated those directives.

Judge Blanchard said he first heard of the possible misconduct via a note he received Wednesday evening from other jurors about Juror 12's statements and from a bailiff.

Columbia County sheriff's Deputy Ken Waller, the bailiff, testified to Judge Blanchard that he overheard Juror 12 telling other jurors Wednesday afternoon that he felt he "had no right to take those two young men's lives in his hands."

Two other jurors said that Juror 12 told them he already had formed an opinion in the case, and one juror told Judge Blanchard that Juror 12 "flat-out said the boys are innocent."

When questioned by Judge Blanchard, Juror 12 said he didn't feel like the prosecution made its case and that he recognized the victim, 33-year-old Rickey Gibson of Grovetown, from a photo introduced into evidence.

Juror 12 never admitted to proclaiming Mr. Butler, 20, and Mr. Holmes, 18, as innocent.

Along with three other men -- Karmbi Octavious Young, 20; Patrick Booker, 19; and Garland Ray Pittman, 15 -- Mr. Butler and Mr. Holmes are accused of killing Mr. Gibson during a September 2008 home invasion. A jury convicted Mr. Young of the crime in August.

Juror 12, whose name the court would not release until the conclusion of the trial, will be replaced by an alternate.

Defense attorneys Victor Hawk and Alexia Davis asked Judge Blanchard to declare a mistrial, but he denied the motion.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 863-6165 or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

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dickworth1 10/02/09 - 06:55 am
Sounds like this juror should

Sounds like this juror should live in California where this practice
is common place. What an idiot!

ripjones 10/02/09 - 08:19 am
He's actually Inspector #12

He's actually Inspector #12 that inspects underwear for his full-time job.

justus4 10/02/09 - 09:26 am
Oh, Oh, this sounds

Oh, Oh, this sounds fishy...just from the article, something jumps right out at ya. Question: How many times in the past years have a juror been removed because they suspected the defendant to be not guilty? How did the judge determine the juror's beliefs? What evidence was used? Simple questions that should be answered, but history is a solid reference to this situation. Lets get a statement from that dismissed juror-betcha that ain't gonna happen.

bettyboop 10/02/09 - 09:56 am
justus........please... just

justus........please... just what Jumped out at you?? Huh?? The man VIOLATED THE RULES!!!! Just what part of that does your pea brain not get?

sugarbutton 10/02/09 - 03:14 pm
Justus.........read the

Justus.........read the article...please. I am not at liberty to say what alot of us already know, but it was best to use an alternate. Just glad they didn't declare a mistrial, it's gone on over a year now. It's extremely stressful for all concerned on both sides and believe me I am showing NO partiality. All parents suffer when bad things happen to our children. Sometimes children learn what they live and sometimes they grow up in good homes and make really bad judgements. This world is very complex and nothing really surprises me anymore about things that continually go wrong in society. It's sad, but so true.

Doyougetitnow 10/02/09 - 04:46 pm
I just knew justazz would

I just knew justazz would chime in on this one. Reading comprehension skills don't aply to him. "How did the judge determine the juror's beliefs?" [filtered word], READ THE STORY SLOWER! And, no, you're not going to get a statement from a juror (or former jurer), that's another breach of the rules during a trial. Do you know ANYTHING about the justice system, or is race the only thing you care about? For the record, everyone involved, victim and suspects are black. Simple questions already answered if you have ANY reading comprehension skills, whatsoever. History isn't a reference at any point in this article, let alone a solid one. Unless, as sugar pointed out, this has gone on for over a year waiting for justice. My thoughts are WAY darker than hers, as far as justice is concerned. The first one got life plus 70 years. It should have been a capital crime, i.e. IV him next week. This is a by-product of voter registration, they can serve jury duty. No IQ required. Fortunately, they can also be dismissed. Judge Blanchard did right not allowing a mistrial, that would only prolong justice.

corgimom 10/02/09 - 10:25 pm
Justus knows ALL ABOUT people

Justus knows ALL ABOUT people who supposedly don't receive fair trials. He is very bitter, you know why he says what he says.

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