Wrong juror serves in rape case, spurring a mistrial

A Miami-Dade judge declared a mistrial on Friday after discovering that the woman who served as the foreperson was the wrong juror.

Judge William Thomas had called out the jurors selected to serve in the rape trial last Wednesday, and Gricel Acosta stepped forward when he read the name “Acosta.” But she was the wrong Acosta, the Miami Herald reports.

The juror selected to serve was Neftali Acosta. Gricel Acosta had been excused, without her knowledge, by defense lawyers. The mistake wasn’t caught until jurors convicted the defendant, Baxter Tisdale, of raping two women in 1986. Cold-case detectives had linked him to the rapes through DNA. Tisdale had claimed the sex was consensual.

After the mistrial was declared, Tisdale accepted a plea deal that put him in prison for nine years, the Miami Herald says.

The story recalls a similar incident in 1999 when Frederick Burtz responded to a court deputy’s call for a “Mr. Burns.” Burtz, who was also the foreman, thought his name was being mispronounced. An appeals court upheld the resulting conviction.

Thomas’ nomination for a federal judgeship was recently blocked by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who cited concerns about a light sentence in one case and a decision to suppress confessions in another. If he had been confirmed, Thomas would have been the first black openly gay man on the federal bench, the New York Times reported last week.

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