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Man in Court to Fight Traffic Ticket Winds up on Jury

On December 4, a man arrived at Hampden Hall of Justice on State Street in Springfield, Massachusetts to argue a traffic ticket. What he wound up doing was appearing on a jury, hearing evidence and then deliberating in a District Court assault trial, according to The Republican. The defendant in the case will be receiving a new trial since the issue was not found until after the trial was complete.

The man involved in the incident does not speak much English and has not been identified to the public. He reportedly followed an officer of the court who was leading jurors selected earlier that day into the courtroom following lunch.

The man, along with the rest of the jury, heard the one witness for both sides, the closing arguments from the lawyers and instructions from Judge Bethzaida Sanabria-Vega regarding the rules of law they need to use when coming to a verdict. The jury did not even realize something was wrong at the time. The defendant, Donald Campbell, was found guilty of two counts of assault.

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The court docket for the case said the following:

“After trial, during deliberations the court finds that one of the people on jury panel was not a juror. He was present for a traffic ticket. Court declares a mistrial.”

A new trial will begin on March 27 for Campbell.

According to Joan Kenney, a spokeswoman for State Trial Court, “Seated jurors now report to the jury pool room after a recess, and the court officers identify them by using the numbered cards that each juror receives. following the (lunch) recess, six jurors returned on time and were waiting together in a busy corridor for instructions from a court officer about where to report. Another person who had limited English skills, not a juror, was waiting for his case to be called and sat on the same bench with the impaneled jurors.”

“When the jurors were escorted to the courtroom for the trial, the non-juror joined them, apparently believing that his case would be called there. Meanwhile, the seventh juror returned from lunch a little bit late and went to an unused deliberation room to wait for instructions. By the time she was identified as a juror assigned to this case, the short trial was concluding,” Kenney said.

William J. Boyle is the presiding justice for Springfield District Court. He did not talk about the case, but did say that the mistake could have happened because of the sheer volume of people in the courthouse each day.

“Given our volume of criminal cases – we are the number one busiest district court in the entire commonwealth of Massachusetts – every now and then something completely unexpected happens,” Boyle said. “When it does, we correct and resolve it, which is what we’ll do here.”

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