COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – In a stunning move, on Wednesday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Monroe declared a mistrial in the Civic Center property damage case against Muscogee County District Attorney Mark Jones.
The decision came two and a half days into the trial. It came after a discussion about a witness potentially watching media live-stream coverage of the high-profile trial.
News 3 got the chance to talk to one of the jurors following this mistrial.
“First of all, I was really surprised to see this trial was about burning out tires. With all of the murders and everything going on in Columbus, I thought they would take precedent over somebody doing burnouts in a parking lot. Most of the jurors were perplexed by that,” said Robert Nerkowsk, one of the jurors.
Jurors who spoke to the media after they were released told the same story, Jones and co-defendant Erik Whittington were headed to acquittals.
This is the reason Jones’ attorney, Chris Breault, was against the mistrial.
“My initial reaction is disappointment,” Breault said. “We are very excited to talk to the jurors. Every single one of them thought the case was without merit. They thought it was a waste of time and resources.”
Breault and co-defendant Erik Whittington’s attorney, William Kendrick, had been on the same page most of the trial. They differed on the mistrial motion.
Monroe said it was not possible to move forward with a fair trial after he learned some of the witnesses had been watching testimony on a live stream.
“I do think the judge made the appropriate decision to mistry the case for the reasons he stated,” Kendrick said.
If convicted, Jones would lose his job.
Special prosecutor Brian Patterson says no decision has been made to re-try Jones and Whittington. Judge Monroe scheduled a status conference for Monday afternoon to discuss the next step.
Jones is also facing a nine-count felony indictment that was handed down last week. It involves allegations of bribery and other criminal misconduct while in office.
He faces a likely suspension from his job because of those allegations. That suspension will be decided by a three-person commission appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp.
Jones was elected in November 2020 and began serving on Jan. 1. He defeated three-term incumbent Julia Slater in the Democratic Primary.