Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News Group.
                                Jeromy Ladwig is on trial for vehicular homicide.

Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News Group. Jeromy Ladwig is on trial for vehicular homicide.

Defense attorney wants mistrial after juror’s ‘shenanigans’

A defense attorney is asking for a mistrial after some odd behavior by a juror involving a zombie-related sign and dried insects.

Oak Harbor resident Jeromy Ladwig, 37, is on trial for vehicular homicide. He is accused of causing a May 2, 2016, collision on North Whidbey that killed 18-year-old Keesha Harden of Coupeville.

Much of Monday morning in court was dedicated to figuring out what to do with a juror who was up to “shenanigans,” as defense attorney Charles Hamilton of Seattle described it.

The bailiff reported that last Thursday one of the jurors posted a sign on the door to the jury room that read “Department of Zombie Defense.” The bailiff instructed the man to take it down, but the juror later put it back up.

Hamilton argued that the sign could prejudice the jury. “I ask for a retrial and that we get a better batch of people,” he added.

In addition to the sign, another juror drew an image of a gnome on a whiteboard.

Chief Criminal Prosecutor Eric Ohme argued that a mistrial wasn’t necessary. He suggested that the judge question each juror individually about whether he or she saw the sign and the drawing and whether the juror felt it would affect his or her ability to remain impartial. Judge Vickie Churchill agreed.

But first Churchill brought in juror No. 7 and asked him why he put up the sign. The man explained that he went to downtown Coupeville to buy candy, saw the sign and felt that it was “fitting” for the trial.

“I thought it was a good sign to put up,” he said.

The man said he put the sign back up after the bailiff asked him to take it down because he “paid money for that.”

Churchill reminded the juror that the jury members were instructed not to discuss the case with anyone else so that they would remain impartial while hearing the evidence. He said posting the sign was a “passive maneuver” and he thought it was OK since it didn’t involve talking.

“I never really wanted to be here in the first place,” he said.

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