Mistrial declared in shooting case

Mistrial declared in shooting case

URBANA — A Champaign County judge this morning declared a mistrial in the case of a man accused of shooting another last summer after jurors told him they had heard too much about developments in the last two days.

Three male jurors said they had either read a newspaper headline or overheard news at work that Ardis Fenn, 23, may have killed Curtis Mosley, 29, to keep him from testifying at Fenn's trial for aggravated battery with a firearm.

Judge Tom Difanis had excused the jurors on Tuesday morning before they even heard evidence when Fenn didn't show up for trial and the state revealed that Mr. Mosley had been killed Monday night.

Mr. Mosley was fatally shot in his apartment at 1102 E. Colorado Ave., U, about 8:30 p.m. Monday while his girlfriend and her mother watched.

After individually questioning the 12 jurors and two alternates, Difanis excused the three men, leaving him with one juror too few to proceed to trial.

He told Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler that he wanted to proceed with a fresh batch of jurors Monday but Ziegler said he was "skeptical" that a fair jury could be picked.

"People don't read any more," Difanis responded.

"Fortunately for The News-Gazette, at least two do," Ziegler snapped back.

Difanis then brought in the jurors and explained to the ones who didn't know anything about the case what had happened.

"I heard testimony that Fenn was involved in shooting the victim in this case," he explained. He then said even if all the jurors had claimed to be able to be fair and impartial, the appellate court might have overturned the case had there been a conviction.

"I erred on the side of caution and declared a mistrial," he said. "I know the last couple of days you did the best you could. The system doesn't function unless we have citizens willing to come in and serve."

Difanis told the jury that he had been in the justice system for a "long time" and had "never run across this situation before. It's a new one for me. Again, I brought donuts for nothing."

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rsp wrote on February 07, 2013 at 10:02 am

I'll bet more people would show up for jury duty if they knew there were donuts. 

cretis16 wrote on February 07, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Bail set at $3.00

prp wrote on February 07, 2013 at 11:02 am

This case won't come back to a jury.   There's enough evidence on him for the most recent murder that they'll plea that out and he won't see the outside of a jail cell for many, many years.

SaintClarence27 wrote on February 07, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I would hope he wouldn't be offered a plea deal. He should get the maximum - life without parole.

virgil g wrote on February 07, 2013 at 11:02 am

Want to get out of jury duty? Read the news paper.

Lostinspace wrote on February 07, 2013 at 11:02 am

Just have to find jury members who have no idea what is going on in the world.  Shouldn't be too hard.

rsp wrote on February 07, 2013 at 9:02 pm

You would be surprised how many people don't know what's going on. Especially right around them. My neighbor's house blew up while my son was home and he missed it. He was on his computer. Didn't hear the sirens, either. Of course, I don't think he would pay attention at a trial either. We need some criteria. He'd find the donuts.

imru95 wrote on February 07, 2013 at 11:02 am

Some of us wouldn't mind serving on jury duty, but never get called. 

illini_trucker wrote on February 10, 2013 at 8:02 am

I agree! I remember in school, teachers leaving all the time for jury duty. I'm not a $40,000 a year teacher or an upper middle class citizen, but it seems that the supposed "random selection pool" for the most part "knows" who the middle class is.  I haven't seen not one jury pull for myself. My girl was about the same way for the first decade after being 18, then of course, 9 months after starting college, she got pulled TWICE! We had just moved from Champaign to Vermilion county and yea.. In under two weeks she had two pulls. Champaign AND Vermilion county!  Champaign County of course required a umm.. Change of address..

Danno wrote on February 07, 2013 at 11:02 am

"...Juror #7, what say you? Hang on, your Honor, lemmie' address my latest Tweet..."

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 07, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Jury Duty Procedures 2014:

1)  Select 13 citizens randomly via Driver's Licenses, and Voter Registration cards.

2)  Lock them up for 1 month.

3)  Do not provide access to television, newspapers, magazines, cell phones, electronic devices, or radio.

4)  Do not allow contact with family, or the public.

5)  Provide donuts daily for them. 

Having served jury duty; I cannot understand why anyone would ever want to be on a jury.  There is no way that jurors are ever going to be impartial.  Throwing the accused into a river to see if they float (not guilty) is as fair as the jury system of today.        

Danno wrote on February 07, 2013 at 2:02 pm

6) BYODS (Bring Your Own Donut Sprinkles).

wayward wrote on February 07, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I've gotta ask what the point is of banning electronics in the courthouse, given that it obviously didn't keep jurors from being aware of news related to the case.

rsp wrote on February 07, 2013 at 8:02 pm

It's so you can't take pictures of jury members or have cell phones ring during court. It has nothing to do with looking up things. You can bring in a newspaper to read. Jurors have been concerned about being identified and possibly targetted so they don't want cell phones. For a while there you could bring in a camera, but then they went to all electronics. 

Markus wrote on February 07, 2013 at 4:02 pm
Profile Picture

Why didn't they protect the main witness?  And why is it so hard to submitt comments geesh.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 07, 2013 at 4:02 pm

It's your picture. 

Local law enforcement does not have enough officers to protect the number of witnesses in the county.  People think twice before stating that they observed a crime.  The deceased was a witness at his own shooting.  He was allegedly offered money not to testify, or offer the truth at the trial.  Did he report the money offer to local law enforcement?  Did he request protection?  

sweet caroline wrote on February 07, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I'm worried about Mr. Mosley's girlfriend and her mother, who are apparently the only witnesses to the murder.  I hope they're in protection. 

This whole case is getting more bizarre by the minute. 

Were they just donuts or were there some long johns and cinnamon rolls?  I like cinnamon rolls.

rsp wrote on February 07, 2013 at 8:02 pm

The other story indicates the witnesses are being protected. I'm waiting for more people to be charged. His sister told him they were looking for him and to stay away. There must have been others involved. Cinnamon rolls are good. Especially when they are warm. 

larryb wrote on February 08, 2013 at 4:02 am

An hour before Fenn kicked in Mosely's door and killed him, a friend of Fenn's apparently called Mosely to offer a bribe on Fenn's behalf...Mosely said no, an hour later he was dead.

The friend is in jail on bribery and obstruction of justice charges.

Fenn had only been released a week earlier because prosecutors waited too long to bring the case to trial, I wonder if Mosely even knew this.  From what I understand, Fenn turned himself in Tuesday, not sure if he confessed to the murder.

rsp wrote on February 08, 2013 at 5:02 am

They were waiting on the dna testing on the gun used in the first crime. Due to the state budget situation there is a backlog in testing. Fenn hasn't admitted anything. The friend did give a statement. I don't think he realized how much trouble he was in. I'm sure Fenn still thinks he can get out of this. At some point it will sink in that he's never getting out. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 08, 2013 at 8:02 am

What about another mistrial?  Can the next trial be moved to another county like Union, or Hardin?

rsp wrote on February 09, 2013 at 12:02 am

I don't know it even Difanis wants to let this go. It's not just about the jury, the guy has the whole legal system mad at him. If it was me I'd be thinking about getting a new lawyer too. I would wonder if she was thinking it was her fault someone died even if I didn't kill him, which could interfere with her judgement. Even if they move it I think it would be big news. 

illini_trucker wrote on February 10, 2013 at 7:02 am

Yea but Difanis shot himself in the foot by declaring a mistrial for just two jurors reading a paper. That's why you learn a lesson as a parent and never give reasons why. The answer is always "because dad said so." Same concept here. Now that Difanis gave a reason why he declared mistrial, any competent defense lawyer would either plea out really lightly using another mistrial as ammo, or Petition the court for a change of venue, which now because of Difanis' publicly stated reason why a mistrial.. A change of venue shouldn't be too difficult to approve.

rsp wrote on February 13, 2013 at 5:02 am

There were three jurors, one was told at work what was going on. And Difanis denied the change of venue.

lawnerd wrote on February 08, 2013 at 10:02 am

I still want to know why the prosecutor wasn't ready on the 28th and why Fenn was released. I know what the State's Attorney said about the crime lab and the 120 days but it does not appear that any of the media have bothered to follow up with any source to confirm that the delay was caused by the crime lab or if there really was a speedy trial problem.

SaintClarence27 wrote on February 08, 2013 at 11:02 am

If what the State's Attorney said about the crime lab wasn't true, then wouldn't we know that by now?

lawnerd wrote on February 08, 2013 at 11:02 am

How would we know?

SaintClarence27 wrote on February 08, 2013 at 12:02 pm

From a follow up by *someone*. Most likely, people checked on it, and it was accurate, and no sense making a big story out of "The DA was telling the truth!"

lawnerd wrote on February 08, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Maybe I'm just being overly sceptical, but when I see a politician in a potentially embarrassing situation start pointing fingers at other people, I want to know what those others have to say about it. It' just good journalism. I mean, how hard would it be to add one sentence: "the Illinois State Police crime lab confirmed that forensic testing was not completed as of January 28"?

SaintClarence27 wrote on February 08, 2013 at 1:02 pm

The prosecutor for this case was not a politician. And in any case, you HAVE to know that roughly ALL resources in Illinois are backed up an extreme amount. Are you suggesting that Rietz was lying? That the delay in trial was *not* from DNA testing? The reality is that the DA's office hadn't disclosed the results of the DNA test because they didn't have them yet. The public defender then used this to get the guy ROR.

lawnerd wrote on February 08, 2013 at 1:02 pm

One would have to conclude that if all one knew about the situation was what our local "journalists" reported. I don't recall reading or hearing where anyone sought comment from Fenn's lawyer.

lawnerd wrote on February 08, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Ms. Reitz is a politician, but I want to be perfectly clear that I am not accusing her of lying. I am accusing our local media of practicing poor journalism.

SaintClarence27 wrote on February 08, 2013 at 2:02 pm

You mean the Public Defender?

I get your point - you mistrust the reporting of the story based on the seemingly taking Rietz's word as gospel. That's fair. I still think that it's really taking issue with a very minor thing (Since the reality is that Rietz's explanation is correct) - as opposed to MANY other issues I have with the N-G and their poor reporting and editorializing.

lawnerd wrote on February 08, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I don't think it's a minor issue. Someone is dead because the prosecutor's office wasn't ready when they were supposed to be. The explanation proffered is that it is the fault of the State of Illinois, the public defender and certain legal technicalities- all easy scapegoats. I'm very disappointed in our local media for seeking out no other sources or providing any serious counter analysis in this matter.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 08, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Before everyone rushs to judgement, check out the FY 2011 DNA Testing Accountability Report-Illinois State Police ( www.isp.state.il.us/docs/11dnareport. ).  You can find access to it on Google also.  Granted it is the 2011 report; but it offers explanations for "backlog cases".  Read it; and comment on the story afterward.   

rsp wrote on February 09, 2013 at 12:02 am

The judge asks the prosecutor in court if she has recieved evidence. She is obligated to inform the court truthfully because she has to also turn it over to the other attorney. Lying to the court could not only get her disbarred, but the judge could throw her in jail if he wanted to make a point. So do you think she just forgot to make a phone call to see if by chance the results were ready? Or do you think that in prioritizing case at the lab they decided since they already had the guy and everything maybe they could let it slide lower in the pile. I mean, it wasn't a murder case or anything serious was it? No reason for the state to get it's act together.

Bulldogmojo wrote on February 08, 2013 at 3:02 pm

A lot of emerging details in this case. Looks like some prosecutor forgot to put a "Follow up with evidence lab" reminder in their outlook calendar. Now a witness is dead and going forward that does not bode well for the safety of anyone considering reporting crimes.