By Michelle Guffey
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON Judge Martha Trudo of the 264th District Court declared a mistrial Monday in the murder trial of a 29-year-old Copperas Cove man after racist comments made by one of the jurors about the defendant came to light.
The trial of Michael Paul Boyd, indicted on a May 22, 2005, charge of capital murder in the slaying of a Killeen apartment manager, began Monday morning with the selection of 12 jurors and was to continue that afternoon with opening statements from the attorneys.
However, after lunch, proceedings stalled.
A prospective juror who had not made the cut came forward and told the judge about comments he had overheard earlier that morning from someone who was selected to serve on the jury.
The offending juror was brought before Trudo, and was presented with the accusation. He admitted to making the comment, but claimed that he was only quoting lyrics from a song.
The defense asked the judge for a mistrial, which was granted.
"These were very egregious, outrageous comments," Trudo told the jurors when explaining her decision for a mistrial but declining to elaborate on the context of the comment.
Trudo said the state spent a lot of time ensuring that the defendant's race he is black would not have an impact on the eventual verdict.
"(Boyd) has the right to 12 impartial jurors," she said.
Prospective jurors are screened during a process called voir dire to determine whether there are any circumstances, such as prejudice, that would taint the outcome of the trial.
"Some people are prejudiced on certain things," Trudo said. "The juror was not truthful about his answers."
Because it was the juror who was not being honest during voir dire, the state is not responsible for the mistrial. Double jeopardy is not attached, meaning Boyd can and will be retried at a later date.
Trudo urged the jurors that if they were ever called to serve on a jury again, to search their souls and mind and decide if it is an appropriate case for them.
"It could be you being tried by a jury of your peers," Trudo reminded them.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Kimball, lead prosecutor on the case, said he was not pleased and this has never happened since he has been in the district attorney's office.
"It's disgusting," the prosecutor said of the racist comment. "Comments like that have no business in this day and age."
Kimball declined to go into detail about the offending remark, saying that it was foul and disgusting and didn't bear repeating.
A new date has not been set for the trial. Kimball said it depends on the defense attorney's schedule, as well as scheduling around the move to the new district courts building next month.
Boyd is accused of shooting Kenneth Ray Haney, a part-time apartment manager at The Village West Apartments in Killeen.
The 50-year-old man was killed in the apartment's leasing office, shot multiple times.
An hour after the shots were heard, Boyd was found staying with some friends in an apartment in the complex.
No weapon or shell casings were found at the scene.
Contact Michelle Guffey at firstname.lastname@example.org