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December 20, 2014

Media coverage results in mistrial for kidnapping, rape case

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Patrick Jason Norris

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 4:25 pm | Updated: 5:53 pm, Thu Oct 23, 2014.

A judge on Wednesday declared a second mistrial in two days in the case of an Anniston man charged with kidnapping two women in 2012 and raping and shooting of one of them.

Calhoun County Circuit Judge Bud Turner declared the mistrial after attorneys for the defense expressed concern during jury selection that potential jurors had seen news coverage of the previous day’s mistrial, which could taint a juror’s perspective.

A new trial could take place in October, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Susan James, lead defense attorney, said that a number of potential jurors had read a newspaper article and watched TV coverage of Tuesday’s mistrial.

“It was too many to have enough jurors,” James said.

Juries are selected from a panel of  about 40 potential jurors. Potential jurors aren’t ordered  by the court to refrain from reading news articles or watching TV news until after they’re selected, James said.  

Two mistrials in less than 32 hours is uncommon in her years of law experience, James said, but she commended Turner for his decision, which she said was necessary to ensure her client gets a fair trial.  

Asked if she’ll request a change of venue for the trial, James said “probably.”

Turner left the courthouse after ruling Wednesday morning before lunch, and would not be back, said an employee in his office. She declined to give other contact information for Turner or comment on the ruling.

Calhoun County District Attorney Jennifer Weems said by phone Wednesday that she could not comment on the judge’s ruling, but said a new trial is expected to take place in October.

A problem with a potential juror on a panel resulted in a mistrial decision on Tuesday, Turner said at the time, though he declined to say what that problem was. That problem tainted the overall jury selection process, defense attorneys argued, which resulted in the mistrial.

A new jury was to be selected and the trial to start again Wednesday.

The trial began Monday, with jurors hearing opening statements from defense attorneys and prosecutors in the case against Jason Patrick Norris, 38, of Anniston.

Norris was arrested Nov. 16, 2012, charged with kidnapping, robbery, rape and attempted murder in connection with the alleged abduction of his ex-girlfriend and her friend that day.

The trial to take place in Calhoun County is for the kidnapping and robbery charges against Norris.

A trial on the rape and attempted murder charges is set for Oct. 27 in Clay County, the county in which those alleged crimes took place.

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