02/25/04 — Jury tampering

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Jury tampering

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on February 25, 2004 2:00 PM

A man on trial Tuesday in Wayne County Superior Court for drug offenses was returned to jail without bond after he and a woman friend allegedly asked a juror during lunch "to help us out."

Judge Ernest B. Fullwood of Wilmington declared a mistrial in the case of Amos Turner III, 41, of Olivia Lane. He was charged with possession with intent to sell cocaine.

The judge also ordered that the woman, Janet Miller, 45, of Royall Avenue, be jailed for 30 days for contempt of court.

The alleged incident occurred after court took a break for lunch Tuesday. Stephanie Lewis of Cuyler Best Road was leaving the Courthouse and walked past a parked car. She said a woman in the car asked her for help. The juror told court officials that she then saw the defendant behind the wheel.

The juror reported the incident to the jury clerk, Karrie Riggs, and the courtroom clerk, Michelle Marks. They both notified the judge during the lunch recess.

Judge Fullwood then interviewed Mrs. Riggs, Mrs. Marks, the juror, Turner and Ms. Miller in his chambers.

The juror said the incident would not affect her verdict and said she knew that other people in the case were not allowed to contact her.

Only one alternate juror was chosen for the trial. A second juror, Lisa Boyette of Holly Street, also tripped and fell on stairs inside the courthouse and received medical treatment. She was not able to continue Tuesday, but said she could return if needed today, Mrs. Riggs said.

With only 11 jurors left, Fullwood declared a mistrial, revoked Turner's bond and ordered him held in the Wayne County Jail until a new trial could be scheduled.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth, said the trial could not be rescheduled until the spring because of conflicts.

After the lunch recess, Ms. Miller testified that she did ask the juror for help. Fullwood found her in contempt and sentenced her to 30 days. Ms. Miller apologized to the court, and the judge set her secured bond at $25,000.