By Ted Waddell and Dan Hust
MONTICELLO February 6, 2004 Sullivan County Court Judge Frank LaBuda has declared a mistrial in the case involving Kenneth Newman, 24, of Monticello.
The unthinkable happened, LaBuda said.
Newman has been on trial for a week to determine his guilt or innocence as the alleged driver of the car in which 24-year-old Tabitha Joslin of Liberty died on August 19.
According to LaBuda, a note from the jury foreperson said a juror drove to the scene of the accident on Route 55 in Swan Lake, attempting to better understand the nature of the tragedy. The note also reportedly said that the juror discussed the case with his or her family at home.
This was in direct violation of Judge LaBudas requirement that jurors refrain from gaining any knowledge of the situation through the media, personal visits to the accident scene and with the involved families, or other non-trial evidence.
Yesterday, LaBuda ruled that the jurors actions constituted a mistrial.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense asked for sanctions against the offending juror due to the innocent nature of the jurors attempt to better understand the situation, said LaBuda.
However, the current jury will not be a part of future proceedings. Jury selection for a new trial will begin Tuesday, as LaBuda is anxious to restart the process since Newman remains in Sullivan County Jail awaiting the trials outcome.