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."