13th juror prompts mistrial

February 11, 2009 4:33:15 AM PST
Usually, the trouble is not finding enough jurors. In Harris County, it was one too many.

State District Judge Mark Kent Ellis had to declare a mistrial Tuesday in a murder trial after an extra juror was allowed to deliberate.

Criminal juries must have only 12 members. Ellis said the 13th juror would be considered outside influence even though she sat through all of the testimony.

"In 23 years I've never seen anything like this," Ellis said. "The jurors all seemed pretty upset, but there's no way to unring that bell."

The judge blamed a substitute bailiff.

"I told him I never want to see him in my courtroom again," Ellis said.

Juror Paula Harlan said the extra juror tried to leave, but the bailiff said she needed to complete paperwork that was never brought to her.

"It was a weird deal," Harlan said.

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