A man in a California burglary case walked out of the courtroom a free man only to be killed hours later. The jury mistakenly signed a not-guilty verdict form. The shocked judge stated that the not-guilty verdict had been put on record so he had no choice but to release the defendant.
Jurors told the judge after the mistake was made and it was too late to correct that they had actually been hung on the charges against Bobby Lee Pearson. In the case of the hung jury, the prosecutors would have had to option to retry him.
Superior Court Judge W. Kent Hamlin said after he ordered Pearson free, “I can’t believe it.” Just a few hours later, Pearson was stabbed to death after he went home to get some of his clothing and belongings. Fresno police Sgt. James Rios stated that it seems that Pearson got into an argument with his sister’s boyfriend who was the one who stabbed him. The boyfriend’s name has not yet been released.
Hamlin stated that double jeopardy was already attached so he would be unable to change the verdict. “This has never happened to me in more than 100 jury trials that I have done.”
Pearson along with two additional co-defendants had been accused of burglarizing an apartment last year. They allegedly stole a video system and a gun. The homeowner is said to have caught the intruders and wrestled with one of them.
Pearson’s co-defendant, Terrel Minniweather received a guilty verdict from the jury in his trial. Linden Lindahl, an attorney for Minniweather stated that the mistake in the verdict wasn’t discovered until lunch time. Lindahl stated a juror told a member of the court staff that he had voted on a guilty verdict for Pearson.
Jurors reported that they were extremely confused by the forms. They had a form to return a guilty verdict and one for a not-guilty verdict. However, in the case of a deadlocked jury, there was no form for them to sign.
Lindahl commented that the jury’s confusion surprised him because the judge “did everything by the book.”
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