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Jury Troubles Persist In Drug Slaying Trial

January 10, 2019
Jury Troubles Persist In Drug Slaying Trial

WILKES-BARRE — Juror troubles continued in Antoine McNeal’s murder trial Thursday when a second juror reported being improperly contacted about the case.

Juror No. 11 reported that as he was walking through the county parking garage on his way to court Thursday morning, a woman approached him and asked about his juror badge.

“Are you in this case?” the juror quoted the woman as asking.

The juror said he told the woman he could not talk about the case. She didn’t say anything else as he continued on his way, he said.

As a result of the contact, Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley directed the sheriff’s office to designate visitor spots in the courthouse parking lot for the jurors to park in when they arrive for the trial Friday morning.

“We certainly don’t want any issues at this juncture,” Gartley said.

The move comes after Gartley previously directed sheriff’s deputies to escort the jury throughout the courthouse and to their vehicles at the end of each day because of another incident.

On Tuesday, juror No. 2 reported that as the jurors were walking to the courtroom an unidentified woman began saying, “Innocent. Innocent. Innocent.” No other jurors reported hearing the comments, and juror No. 2 told the court the incident would not affect her impartiality.

She was allowed to remain on the panel without objection.

But a third juror left the panel Thursday morning after calling in sick. The juror was replaced with one of four alternate jurors who have sat in on the trial.

McNeal, 34, is accused of setting up a meeting to buy $500 worth of marijuana from 20-year-old Brandon Smith and then shooting Smith dead during a drug robbery outside Smith’s West Church Street home in Nanticoke.

The defense maintains that McNeal did intend to buy drugs from Smith on Jan. 18, 2017, but has suggested enemies Smith created by ripping people off during drug buys were responsible for his death.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case this afternoon.

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