Judge withholds punishment for juror who balked

EVERETT — A Snohomish County man who ignored jury duty in a murder trial won’t know whether he’ll be held in contempt of court until after the panel he was supposed to join first tries to reach a verdict in the case.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes on Tuesday told the one-time juror in the trial of Dennis Watters that he wants to see what happens with jury deliberations before making any decisions on his fate.

The man, 18, could face up to a month in jail and fines.

He was one of 12 jurors and three alternates selected and sworn Oct. 15 to hear testimony in Watters’ weeks-long trial.

Instead of showing up, however, he sent an email, saying he wasn’t going to serve.

Another member of the jury got sick during the trial and had to be excused. That meant there was just a single alternate left as the jury began its deliberations on Tuesday afternoon.

That was too close for comfort to the “fine edge of having a mistrial” for lack of jurors, the judge said.

He decided Tuesday to postpone deciding how to address the recalcitrant juror’s conduct until after deliberations. The next few days will give him a chance to ponder and also “more time to see how the whole situation plays out,” the judge said.

The man, who was known as Juror No. 38 in the Watters jury pool, graduated in June from Mariner High School and has a job in an auto body shop, his attorney, Gurjit Pandher of Everett, said Tuesday.

He was too overwhelmed to speak up about the hardship jury service presented and opted to send the email later on the advice of family, Pandher said.

That explanation didn’t satisfy Downes, who noted that he’d specifically ordered jurors not to discuss the case with anyone. He also wasn’t swayed by the lawyer’s argument that no act of contempt occurred because the man’s conduct — sending an email — hadn’t actually been witnessed by the judge in court.

The man opted to have his lawyer do most of the talking, but he told Downes that he understood the gravity of his error and had no intent to “inadvertently disrespect” the judge or the court.

There was nothing inadvertent about what happened, Downes responded. He told the man that many people had been counting on him to fulfill a duty he had sworn an oath to perform.

“The day you turn 18 you are an adult and held to an adult standard,” the judge said.

Jury problems forced Downes on Oct. 10 to declare a mistrial, after one potential juror sparked speculation about punishment. Others were kicked off the panel for making comments about the case.

Watters faces first-degree murder and other charges linked to a July 2012 fatal shooting of Ryan Mumm, 20, at Blue Stilly Park in Arlington. The Tulalip-area man, 42, claims he acted in self-defense.

Scott North: 425-339-3431, north@heraldnet.com

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

5 teens in custody in drug-robbery shooting death

They range in age from 15 to 17. One allegedly fatally shot a 54-year-old mother, whose son was wounded.

Porch

EVENTS Light it up on First Street A freestyle Christmas Lights Cruise… Continue reading

Most Read