A juror was dismissed from duty Tuesday in Pittsburg County District Court after authorities determined he had a conversation with the alleged victim.
Michael Wayne Lalli was in a waiting area at the court house, prepared to serve as a juror in a pending trial when he saw an old friend, Charlie Fields. According to Fields, the two sat together and exchanged pleasantries and spoke about motorcycles.
Although Fields spoke only with this one juror, the rest of the potential jurors were seated in close proximity to the two old friends.
And although there is nothing out of the norm when two old friends see eachother and have a chat, there is a problem when one of those friends is an alleged victim in a trial in which the other is serving as a juror.
Special Judge Tim Mills heard statements Tuesday morning from both prosecution and defense attorneys regarding the Lalli and Fields’ conversation. Mills then called Fields into the courtroom and questioned him regarding his discussion and relationship with Lalli. Fields told the judge that he and Lalli were old friends that rode motorcycles together and their discussion earlier that day was regarding their bikes. “I’ve rode the same motorcycle since 1977 — a Sportster — he had the same one,” Fields told the judge.
Mills then called Lalli into the court and excused him from jury duty.
The remaining 19 potential jurors were then called into the courtroom and jury selection for the trial began at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The defendant in the case, Miles Jordan Tarron, 19, of McAlester, is accused of assaulting Fields by elbowing him in the stomach.
According to testimony, Tarron was attending a criminal court proceeding for his mother, Angela Marcum on June 2, 2011. When the people attending the court proceeding filed into the crowded hallway outside of the courtroom, Tarron allegedly elbowed Fields, a prosecution witness in his mother’s criminal case, in the stomach.
Numerous people testified in Tarron’s assault trial Tuesday, including Fields, who testified that at first he thought that Tarron’s bump was accidental, until he then saw Tarron looking at him with a mean expression on his face.
Fields’ girlfriend, Tresa Pippin also testified that Tarron was giving “mean” looks. “He was looking down on me with a hard look on his face,” Pippin testified.
District 18 Drug Court Coordinator Deborah Burrows testified that she was in the courtroom on June 2, 2011. Burrows testified that on that day, Fields began coughing and making other disruptive sounds during statements that were in support of Marcum. Burrows said she believed Fields was making these disruptive sounds intentionally because he didn’t like what he was hearing. Burrows also testified that she observed Tarron become angry with Fields and she saw Tarron “glare” at Fields multiple times.
Jurors heard testimony from Johnny D. Blankenship, whose company installed the video surveillance system at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.
Jurors also viewed a video footage of the alleged assault on June 2, 2012. Pittsburg County Det. Tommy Lyons testified that he investigated the alleged assault. He discussed the video footage and testified about a letter he received from Tarron during his investigation. “I may have accidentally bumped into someone and if I did, I appologize,” Tarron said in this statement.
The jurors were them dismissed from the courtroom for a break and Tarron’s defense attorney, Shannon McMurray, requested that Mills dismiss the case without letting it go to the jury. “There is absolutely no evidence that this was done intentionally,” McMurray said.
Mills then commented regarding the video footage, “If it happened on the video,” Mills said, “then your eyesight is way better than mine, because I didn’t see it.” Mills then overruled McMurray’s request, stating that there is other testimony that the jury has to consider.
At this point in the trial, the prosecution’s attorney, Megan Tilly, rested her case. McMurray then called two witnesses who were also in the crowded hallway on June 2, 2011, when the alleged assault took place. Both witnesses testified that the hallway was very crowded and difficult to maneuver without bumping into people. Both witnesses also testified that Fields began speaking aggressively to Tarron outside of the courthouse, after the alleged assault took place. They testified that Fields was talking negatively to Tarron and Tarron looked in Fields direction, but just walked right by, ignoring the comments.
The trial were expected to continue Wednesday.
For more on this story, see Friday’s print edition of the McAlester News-Capital.
Contact Rachel Petersen at email@example.com.
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