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Jury Pool Gossip Likely Will Cause a Year’s Delay in Murder Trial; Fla. Judge Dismisses All Members

Posted Aug 2, 2012 6:15 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Members of a jury pool who ignored a court order and gossiped amongst themselves about the high-profile defendant in a first-degree murder case created a situation in which a Florida judge said he felt he had no choice but to dismiss everyone, given the risk of an appeal that could wreak havoc on other cases.

On Tuesday, 16 jurors said they had either talked about defendant Dontae Morris or heard others doing so, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Expected to be tried this month for the murder of 42-year-old Rodney Jones during an alleged attempted robbery in 2010, the defendant is facing other murder cases that have captured public interest. They include two over the fatal shootings of a pair of Tampa police officers in 2010 which have not yet been scheduled for trial.

Announcing his decision on Wednesday, Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente didn't criticize any individual jurors for gossiping, but said, "If you did, you know who you are. You should be ashamed."

The judge and a defense lawyer said the rescheduled trial, which probably now will not take place for another year, may have to be moved outside the Tampa area.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Angry Judge May Start Jury Selection Anew Due to Gossip About Defendant Among 200-Member Pool"

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