Juror's discomfort with audience disrupts murder trial

Mar. 11—The cold-case murder trial of James Dexter Brown Jr., marked by the refusal of several prosecution witnesses to testify to information in their previous police statements, ran into a new disruption Friday over a juror's discomfort with her interactions with spectators outside court.

Kaitlyn Kelsey, a court clerk, testified during a hearing with the jury absent that the juror pulled her aside Wednesday and asked if she could be escorted out of the Hartford courthouse within five minutes of the eventual announcement of the verdict.


ISSUE: What to do about a juror's concerns about out-of-court interactions with spectators to the murder trial of James Dexter Brown Jr., 32.

DECISION: Judge Nuala E. Droney dismissed the juror who raised the concerns, questioned all other jurors, and denied motions for a mistrial after none of the others' answers indicated bias to her.

Kelsey recalled that when she asked if the juror had any concern, she replied that she didn't want to get anybody in trouble but added that she and other jurors had noticed people from the courtroom gallery watching them get into their cars. Kelsey also said, however, that the juror described those people as "respectful."

On Friday, Kelsey said, the juror told her to forget everything, saying she was fine.

When the juror was called into the courtroom for questioning Friday, she at first refused to come in. Defense lawyer Robert P. Pickering told Judge Nuala E. Droney later that the clerk had said the juror wanted to stay out of the courtroom because Brown was there.

The juror eventually did come in and answered the judge's questions, denying that she had any safety concerns. But the judge agreed with lawyers on both sides and promptly excused the juror from the case.

The judge wrestled longer with how to assure that the juror's concerns hadn't biased other jurors against Brown, 32, who has lived with his mother in East Hartford.

She ended up calling each of the remaining 11 jurors and three alternates into the courtroom and questioning them individually. She asked most of them just two questions, whether they had heard any conversation about the trial and whether anything had affected their ability to be fair and impartial — as well ask asking them to reaffirm their ability to follow their oath.

One juror said he had overheard the juror who was ultimately excused mention that one of the spectators had talked to her about her coat two days in a row. He said he believed two other jurors had overheard those comments as well, but both of them subsequently denied having heard anything.

The defense lawyer repeatedly moved for a mistrial, saying at one point, "Potentially the jury is poisoned."

But the judge was satisfied with the remaining jurors' assurances that they could be impartial and obey their oath. She denied a mistrial and had an alternate randomly selected to replace the excused juror.

Brown is accused of fatally shooting Kenny "Banga" Sullivan, 20, on Main Street in Hartford after a series of fights during and after a concert at the downtown XL Center on June 26, 2008. Authorities believe Brown was a member of the Money Green Bedroc gang while Sullivan was a member of the rival Sandz-Bridge gang.

Later Friday, the jury heard from Edward Rosado, one of three witnesses the judge ordered arrested after he failed to show up in response to a subpoena, though he denied having received the subpoena. He had been in jail overnight after the judge set his bond at $500,000.

Rosado, who said he grew up with Sullivan, testified that he didn't recall telling police he saw Brown shoot Sullivan in the stomach, as his police statement says.

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