A man was dismissed from the Mattapan massacre jury Monday after other jurors told court officials that he revealed to them that he had researched ballistics information over the Internet, a violation of court rules that forced deliberations to start over.
“It appears that one juror took it upon himself to learn something about an issue in the case,” Judge Jeffrey Locke said at the start of the day in Suffolk Superior Court.
Such research is not allowed because it goes beyond evidence presented in court, denying the defendant a fair trial.
The violation threw the trial into a frenzy as Locke spent the entire morning asking the 11 other jurors, one by one in sidebars, if they could continue deliberating in an unbiased way.
The ousted juror, a middle-aged man, was driven back to Worcester in a State Police cruiser.
An alternate juror, another middle-aged man, was selected. That kept the jury balanced at six men and six women.
The judge instructed them to start anew.
The jurors had conducted about five hours of deliberations in the case, which is in its second trial.
The first ended in a mistrial earlier this year for Dwayne Moore, and his alleged coconspirator was acquitted.
“I cannot tell you how upsetting” that violation was, Locke told the jurors before they went back to work.
“The juror went beyond the evidence in violation of my instructions,” the judge said.
Moore, the 35-year-old defendant facing life in prison without possibility of parole on charges of killing four people on Woolson Street, including a 2-year-old boy, stood at the lengthy sidebars but did not comment.
Moore has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and defense lawyer John Amabile has told jurors that his client is wrongly accused.
Moore is accused of killilng 21-year-old Simba Martin; Martin’s girlfriend, Eyanna Flonory, 21; her 2-year-old son, Amanihotep Smith; and Levaughn Washum-Garrison, 22, Martin’s friend, who had slept on a couch at Martin’s Sutton Street house on Sept. 28, 2010.
A fifth man, Marcus Hurd, was shot in the head but survived. The slayings shocked the city.
Ballistics evidence figured prominently in the five-week trial.
Last week, Amabile held a semiautomatic handgun up for jurors to view.
While the weapon used in the killings has not been found, the weapon he held, a 9mm Cobray, is the type that was used, based on bullets recovered during autopsies and spent shell casings left at the scene.
And at least one exhibit, a poster board, has been used by prosecutors to illustrate some of the ballistic evidence.
Jurors in the trial were chosen from Worcester County residents and travel into Boston each day on a bus provided by the court system.
The request for Worcester County jurors came from the defense, which feared that Moore could not be tried fairly by jurors drawn from Suffolk County because of the heavy news coverage of Moore’s first trial.
While it is unclear whether the dismissed juror will face any penalty, Locke reiterated in a stern voice to the newly assembled jury that members must adhere to his instruction against independent research, saying the potential penalty could be “severe.”
Criminal defense lawyer Jeffrey A. Denner said judges have a wide array of actions they can take against a juror who disobeys an order against conducting outside research, including a contempt charge and jail time.
“Usually contempt or some criminal action would be brought if the judge thought the juror did it for some sort of gain, for some activity with a real agenda,” Denner said.
“I represented a juror once who actually in the midst of a case called up one of the sides and asked for a $200,000 payment,” said Denner, who spoke in the hallway outside the courtroom.
Denner is representing Timothy P. Cahill, the former state treasurer, who is on trial in a courtroom next to Moore’s on charges of using state lottery funds to pay for campaign ads.
“If it’s not for personal gain and not independent criminal activity, then they’ll probably get dismissed and it wouldn’t get past that. . . . As a practical matter, that’s why they have alternates,” Denner said.
“I’d rather not go through again what we went through today,” Locke said to the jurors after they deliberated for four hours Monday.
“Put it [the trial] out of your mind,” he told them before dismissing them for the day.