By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal
TUPELO – A mistrial was declared about 1:30 p.m. today in the depraved-heart murder trial of Thomas J. Ward of Saltillo.
The 12-member jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked. Reports across two days said shouting could be heard coming from the jury room.
Ward, 25, was indicted in the 2010 shooting death of Anna Catherine McCoy, who died at his home. He insists it was an accident.
The state called it murder.
When and if the case will be retried is up to Distrit Attorney Trent Kelly. He was not immediately available to say what his office will do with the case.
Ward will remain in custody, though, because his bond was revoked after he was arrested a few weeks ago after he allegedly led police on a high-speed chase.
Family members on both sides wept openly as the mistrial was declared by Judge James L. Roberts Jr.
(Below is a running account of today’s court action. Please forgive the typos and glitches made as I typed fast.)
• • •
9:19 a.m. – Judge, Ward, attorneys enter courtroom.
I asked jury to be here at 9. Bailiff says all 12 present.
Think it would be wise to bring them in for a status report. Yesterday, they said willing to continue. Unknown to me what that time will be. As long as willing to continue, I want them to do so.
FLEITAS – As discussed in chamber and for record, Defendant feels remarks by bench to jury about counsel’s objection to C-18 are sufficiently prejudicial and request mistrial based thereon. Secondly, defendant’s position that remarks made, to offer any amplification or explanation only creates more of a problem. Asks no more remarks to be made.
BOWEN – State does not believe comments were problem in any way. Comments harmless, doubt jury even noticed. If counsel for defendant requests that court doesn’t give any cautionary instructions, believe court should not do so. To do so would further highlight the remark. For that reason, we joint the request of the defendant.
JUDGE – Had intended to tell them to disregard. Per requests, I won’t comment further. As to motion for mistrial, don’t believe it rises to level of mistrial. Overrule motion.
Attorneys – nothing further.
9:26 – Judge asks for jury to return.
JUDGE – 9th day of trial. To jury, thanks for returning. Not necessarily anything important to bring you in except for record to reflect you’re all 12 present, agreed to continue deliberations in effort to reach a verdict. Not going to belabor you with anything else. Ask you to return to jury room to continue deliberations.
9:30 – Jury goes out.
To audience – know you will continue to conduct yourself well. How long will it be? There’s no answer to that. Period of time is determined by them. Permit them to continue as long as they tell me they’re willing to do so. They may come out in an hour, one way or another. I’ll be here. Deal with them, however they report. If wish to eat another meal, I’ll permit that. Probably by this afternoon sometime, if I haven’t heard from them, and after consultation with the lawyers … I always confer with the lawyers … sometime this afternoon … 2 or 4… like will bring them back for another report. Tell you that simply for your planning.
• • •
1:22 – Judge, everybody else returns. No jury.
JUDGE – Apologizes and not making announcement about lunch. We kept getting message from jury about lunch or not. That got us to where we are now. I have received a note from jury – counsel seen. Going to bring jury back for final result.
FLEITAS – Asks for inquiry of jury about depraved heart murder. If jury has in fact arrived at decision about gravest charged offense, Mr. Ward would be unable to raise double-jeopardy right. He has interest in this proceeding and we ask that court inquire one way or another,a s appropriate.
BOWEN – We object to that. Rule … of Rules of Court … in case … if convict, say which found guilty. Jury should not be polled without conviction. Per multiple counts … not proper.
FLEITAS – I am incapable of scanning all MS precedents. Sought to deermine if any MS authority exists about that question. Couldn’t find one way or another. There is a difference fron jurisdiction from jurisdiciton, as respect to this question. Fifth Amendment compels an opportunity to ensure that jury hasn’t arrived at unanimous verdict on depraved-heart charge, if it can be determined.
JUDGE – My belief that jury is ready to leave. Want no outbursts. Case is not likely to be over today. You have been courteous. Thank you for being cooperative. I know you’re inereted in another matter and we’re going to quickly get to that. If you think you cannot be civil, I want you to leave the courtroom. These law enforcement officer have court instructions to take whatever measures they need.
FLEITAS – For record, I must ask court with respect to request for partial verdict.
JUDGE – I suppose inferential rule is that I am going to question jury, not poll them. Hope questions asked … I respect your request. Bring in the jury.
1:32 – (Ward looks at his wife with sad eyes. She looks very sad. His mother has tears in her eyes. McCoys look very tense.)
JUDGE – I was handed note – Jury feels cannot come to unanimous verdict. Further deliberation will not resolve. (Foreperson says yes.) While not able to come to agreement, doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard. I want to be sure you’re speaking for the jury… in your opinion, after 9 days, is your opinion there will no unanimous verdict? (Yes, your honor.) Unanimous decision on any part? (No, your honor.) Believe you expended the best effort you could. Appreciate you complying with court’s instructions. Thank you for your service. Guess it’s been an educational experience for you.
I want everyone in courtroom. Everybody else remain seated.
1:39 – GOOD DAY, Judge tells them.
JUDGE – For record, Mr. Fleitas – I believe that answers the question. (That jury reached no verdicts.) I do not know…. strike that …. There is a mistrial in case. Ward will remain in custody of the sheriff under previous orders of the court. Thanks to those who serve the court.
May be great frustration on all sides. I respect that. Wish I had a better answer, I do not, other than to say everyone involved has worked as hard as they can. Believe they will continue to.
KELLY, FLEITAS – Nothing else.
JUDGE – REMEMBER, this case is not over. May need to let one side leave first. Law enforcement are trained. (Kelly, Fleitas don’t think anything unusual needs to happen with exit.)