“She is absolutely violating my instructions when searching for things on the Internet,” said Saylor, who warned jurors during the three-week trial that they should decide the case only on evidence presented in court and should not do their own investigation or see any. media coverage.
The revelation shocked the defense team and prosecutors, who both agreed that the jury should be fired.
Jurors, who consulted for about four hours on Tuesday, were brought to the courtroom and told that the juror had been dismissed for violating the judge’s instructions and would be replaced by that remaining substitute.
They were instructed to begin their deliberations again so that the substitute could fully participate in the trial.
Coleman, 36, of Providence, is accused of luring Jassy Correia into her car by promising her a ride home from a Boston nightclub in February 2019, then sexually assaulting her and suffocating her to death. He is charged with a single count of kidnapping resulting in death, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
Correia, who was celebrating her 23rd birthday with friends at Venu in Boston’s Theater District, was trying to get Uber back to a friend’s home in Dorchester when Coleman tricked her into getting in her car, prosecutors say.
During closing arguments on Tuesday. Coleman’s lawyer said Correia was aggressive after mixing alcohol and cocaine and assaulted Coleman after consensual sex. She also questioned Correia’s mental stability, noting that she was diagnosed as bipolar and received treatment at a psychiatric facility.
Before dismissing the juror, Saylor called her to court and questioned her about what she had done and whether she had shared any of her research with fellow jurors.
“No, I didn’t,” said the juror, who looked visibly upset when the judge told her he had no choice but to dismiss her.
“I have personal experience with some of the things I searched for on the Internet,” the juror said, adding that she did not notice that she was violating the judge’s instructions. Her intention was to “formulate my discussions” on issues she planned to raise during deliberations, she said.
“Believe me, I would do nothing to threaten my involvement in this process,” she said.
“I think you did something in bad faith for a minute,” said Saylor. But she violated a rule that requires cases to be decided on the basis of evidence presented in court, he said.
The 12 remaining jurors, including the deputy, were brought to court and asked if the dispatched juror shared her investigation with them. They all said she hadn’t.
One juror, a man, told the judge he had not read the articles but saw the dismissed juror highlight them with a marker and warned her to “clear it with you”.
“I have to emphasize as strongly as possible that you should not do your own research,” Saylor told jurors before sending them to deliberate. “When the case is over, you can look for anything you want.”
It was the latest setback in the wake of the pandemic. The trial was postponed for a week earlier this month after the judge tested positive for COVID-19. Sixteen jurors, including four deputies, were initially paneled, but several have been acquitted for various reasons over the past month.
On Tuesday, just before the final arguments began, the judge said he acquitted a juror after she called to say she was stranded in Vermont after her car caught fire.
In his closing remarks, U.S. Assistant Robert Richardson said Coleman tricked Correia into getting in his car and “didn’t share with Jassy what his real interest was early that morning: having sex.”
Richardson argued that Coleman killed Correia inside his car and showed “awareness of guilt” by keeping her body in his Rhode Island apartment for days when he investigated how to hide his crime and conspired to remove her body. Four days after Correia disappeared, police pulled Coleman on Interstate 95 in Delaware and found her body stuffed in a suitcase in the trunk of his car.
An autopsy showed she had died of strangulation and sustained blunt force trauma. Coleman’s DNA was found on Correia’s body, suggesting she was raped, prosecutors said.
Coleman is not charged with murder and prosecutors only have to prove he kidnapped her, resulting in her death, and traveled across state borders.
Coleman’s attorney, Jane Peachy, said Correia willingly got into Coleman’s car and “this theory that he tricked or lured her into going with him is pure imagination.”
She claimed Correia attacked Coleman after engaging in consensual sex. Coleman “panicked” after Correia was killed and “handled it as badly as you can,” she said. “That’s because he had no idea what was going to happen to him in his life,” she said.