Gavel. (AJC file)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ouster of holdout juror gets Douglas County man new murder trial

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday overturned a murder conviction based on a Douglas County judge’s decision to dismiss a holdout juror who refused to find a defendant guilty.

Superior Court Judge William “Beau” McClain ousted Juror 23 without conducting a sufficient inquiry and without good cause, the unanimous ruling said. This means Roger Mills, accused of the Dec. 23, 2017, shooting death of Masuto Garrett, will get a new trial.

Writing for the court, Justice John Ellington said the evidence at the November 2018 trial supported Mills’ conviction. He was tried with co-defendant Moses Bolar, who was acquitted of malice murder but convicted of other charges.

After deliberating more than four hours, the jury sent a note to McClain saying, “We have a juror that believes the defendants are not guilty, based on the evidence presented.” McClain then sent them home for the night and told them to try again the next day.

After returning and deliberating for more than two hours, the jury sent another note to McClain that said the holdout juror did not believe any of the testimony or evidence submitted by the prosecution. The only thing to convince her would be a “clear resolution video” of both Mills and Bolar firing the guns, the note said, asking, “Is this a hung jury?”

McClain called the jury back and, after finding out who was the holdout, removed Juror 23 and replaced her with an alternate juror.

“(Y)ou are not able to perform your duty,” the judge told Juror 23. “There’s no burden of proof in a criminal case about having a clear resolution video.”

But Ellington noted the juror said she could not find Mills guilty “based on the evidence presented.” Moreover, McClain’s very limited inquiry into Juror 23’s “incapacity” fell short of providing enough of a basis for her being excused, the ruling said.

In a statement, District Attorney Ryan Leonard noted that the 11 original jurors and the alternate who replaced Juror 23 had no qualms about the strength of the evidence. “So, yes, we intend to retry Roger Mills,” he said.

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