Attorney: Tainted jury merits mistrial in arson case

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Will allegations of juror misconduct derail Wednesday’s sentencing proceedings for convicted arsonist and murderer Roger Marshall?

Defense attorneys say that is exactly what should happen, but the prosecutor said this “eleventh hour” maneuver is unnecessary.

In February, Marshall was convicted of 11 counts of arson and three counts of aggravated murder. He is accused of setting a fire at the Lyle Motel in August 2004 that killed three people.

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In a motion filed just before 4 p.m. Monday evening, Marshall’s defense attorneys, William Eachus and Charles Knight have requested that a mistrial be declared in the case. The attorneys contend that a juror in the case, Robert Lowe, went to a party the day of the verdict or shortly thereafter and allegedly expressed his opinion that Marshall should receive the death penalty and told people that he was “not going to budge” once the jury began deliberations in the sentencing phase.

Knight said this poses a serious problem. The jury has not begun to deliberate what sentence Marshall should receive and jurors should not yet have begun discussing whether he should or should not receive the death penalty. If they had done so during the guilt or innocence phase, then they were in error, he said.

“We believe Roger had a right to an impartial jury that did not make up their minds before they heard all the facts. We think the penalty may have been discussed during deliberations, not the guilt or innocence,” Knight said. “Roger deserves 12 jurors to hear all the facts before they make a decision.”

The attorneys also contend in their motion Lowe lied to the court during jury selection when he stated he had not followed the case in the media and knew nothing about the Roger Marshall arrest.

They also allege that some of the jurors, including Lowe, had been “partying, joking and whatnot” when they were sequestered and supposed to have been deliberating Marshall’s guilt or innocence.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J. B. Collier Jr., said he does not think the motion for a mistrial has any merit and he wondered why defense counsel waited until now to file the motion.

“They knew a month ago and yet the defense counsel waits until the right before the jury is reconvened to file this,” he said.

“This is something that should have been resolved long ago. We will resist this. I feel that all improprieties can be addressed by the court.”

Attempts to contact Lowe were unsuccessful.