Five-time felon Bobby Lee Pearson was killed just hours after a jury freed him by mistake on Wednesday. The strange incident happened in Fresno, California.
Eight of 12 jurors in the Superior Court believed Pearson was guilty, but not all of them agreed on a verdict. They were suppose to give the judge a note saying they were deadlocked. This meant a mistrial, which might have led to a retrial. Two forms were handed to the jury, one for “guilty” and one for “not guilty.” They didn’t see a form for “deadlocked,” so they turned in the “not guilty” form.
Since the verdict was read and put on record by the time the judge caught the mistake, it was too late. Judge W. Kent Hamlin tells Fresno Bee:
“I can’t change it because double jeopardy has already attached. This has never happened to me in more than 100 jury trials that I have done.”
Defense attorney Lindel Lindahl reportedly told the judge to “take a deep breath” after the huge mistake. The upset judge said he would “chill out.”
Lindahl tells the Bee that the jury who freed this man by mistake were young, most of them college student who kept delaying jury duty until school got out for the summer. Lindahl notes:
“I call it a June jury. I guess they see things differently than our normal jurors.”
FOX Newsreports that after Bobby Lee Pearson was released, he went to his sister’s home to retrieve some of his belongings. At some point he got into a fight with her boyfriend, Willie Gray, 35.
With a bad history between them, it didn’t end well.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said investigators suspect Gray of killing Pearson. The freed man was discovered dead on the street from a bullet or knife wound on his chest and a cut on his stomach. A steak knife was found near his body.
Gray was arrested and is booked on suspicion of murder charges. Dyer says due to the jury’s “mishap,” Pearson is dead.
The prosecutor in the fumbled case — William Terrence — says although he wanted a “guilty” verdict, Pearson didn’t deserve to die:
“There’s not a death penalty on a burglary. I’m not sitting here thinking he got what he deserved.”
Terrence shares that he’s baffled at the how the jury handled the situation. Opportunities the jurors had to say something were passed up in front of the judge, especially since any verdict requires a unanimous decision by everyone. A note should have been sent to the judge in a “deadlocked” verdict. Terrence says:
“Apparently, the message wasn’t quite received.”
Pearson and and another man — Terrel Minnieweather — were on trial for burglarizing an apartment and swiping a video system and a gun last year. The owner caught them and struggled with one of the thieves. Mimmieweather received a “guilty” verdict. The judge polled each juror individually asking them what their verdict was in his case, but when it came to Pearson, the jury was asked as group. Terrence says:
“No one stood up and said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. That’s not my verdict.’ They nodded along.”
Evidence against Pearson was less so than that of Terrel Mimmieweather in the case, but his death reflects the jury’s mistake after they freed him.
Multiple reports say Bobby Lee Pearson had a lengthy criminal record.
[Image via ABC Local]