A Baltimore Circuit Court judge yesterday declared a mistrial in an attempted murder and witness intimidation case after a juror said two men who were watching the proceedings saw her later at a bus stop and scared her, according to the city prosecutors.
The news came in the form of a handwritten note from the jury forewoman to Judge Robert Kershaw during the second day of deliberations in the trial of Yusef Winston-Bey, 27, and Victor Shuron, 30. They are charged in the Nov. 27, 2006, shooting of a witness in a Baltimore County homicide.
"She states that she couldn't hear what they said, but they pointed and she could read his lips saying, 'There goes one of them right there,'" the note from the forewoman says, recounting the unnamed juror's concerns. "She says that now she doesn't want to vote on the charges."
In a city in which prosecutors have long complained that witness intimidation hampers murder cases, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office said implied threats against a juror are unusual. This case is under investigation.
"It is very frustrating when we present evidence of intimidation only to learn that even the jurors are reluctant to move forward," said Margaret T. Burns, the spokeswoman.
Winston-Bey's attorney, Margaret Mead, said she asked for a mistrial "because I felt the note was going to taint the entire jury." But she said there is no evidence that the two men at the bus stop are related to or are friends with either defendant, or that their actions were meant to intimidate.
"I think the juror got nervous," Mead said. "It bothered her the way these guys acted. What bothers me is that the state is trying to use this to bolster their position of witness intimidation. It is creating hysteria in the minds of jurors. Anytime anyone feels uncomfortable, now all of a sudden it is witness intimidation or juror intimidation, when that is not what it is."
Police had charged Winston-Bey and Shuron with shooting Donnie Hill, 34, on the parking lot of the Waverly Shopping Center. Authorities said the shooting was an attempt to prevent Hill from testifying in a Baltimore County murder case. Prosecutors have since dropped the county murder charge against Shuron; the murder case against Winston-Bey is pending in Baltimore County.
Mead said her client could not have been involved with Hill's shooting because he had been playing pool at the shopping center and had bought a time-stamped lottery ticket eight minutes before the incident. She said jurors told her they had voted to acquit Winston-Bey and Shuron of most charges when the mistrial was declared.
A new trial date has not been set.