Defendant charged with jury tampering in Miller County

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A defendant charged with robbery and false imprisonment has a new charge of jury tampering in Miller County for alleged inappropriate contact with a juror the day before testimony was scheduled to begin in his trial last year.

Jerald Deral Jones, 30, was in court May 15, 2017, for jury selection in his criminal trial. Jones is accused of forcing a former girlfriend into his car March 24, 2016, and of stealing her wallet.

A jury was chosen that afternoon to decide the case and given instructions by Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson to return to the Miller County courthouse at 9 a.m. the following day to begin hearing testimony from witnesses. A male juror’s failure to show for the trial May 16, 2017, prompted an investigation by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Texarkana, Ark., Police Dept.

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The juror told investigators that during jury selection he walked by Jones on his way back to court after a break and that Jones said, “Hey lil’ fam…I know you ain’t up in here snitchin’,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

The juror said he realized after hearing Jones’ name that he knew him. The juror was working as a correctional officer for Bowie County, Texas, at the time and had come into contact with Jones while Jones was incarcerated. The court ruled that the juror’s knowledge of Jones did not prevent him from serving on the jury and the man was ultimately seated on Jones’ jury.

The juror said that when Johnson released the jury at about 6:15 p.m. he passed by Jones on his way out of the building and that Jones seemed to be waiting in a stairwell. The juror alleges Jones asked him for a ride. The juror reported that after he’d gotten in his car he looked up to see Jones pulling on the locked passenger-side door handle of his car.

“(The juror) started his vehicle and cracked his windows to let the hot air out of the car as he started backing up. Mr. Jones threw his hands in the air and stated, ‘You ain’t gonna give me a ride?,'” the affidavit states. “(The juror) stated, ‘No,’ and Mr. Jones responded, ‘Then let me use your phone so I can call somebody.'”

The juror left the courthouse without giving Jones a ride. The juror told investigators he didn’t show up for the trial because he didn’t feel comfortable serving on the jury after his encounter with Jones.

“(The juror) stated he thought Mr. Jones was trying o be friends with him and that he believed Mr. Jones thought he had a friend on the jury,” the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, investigators reviewed and preserved video surveillance footage of the courthouse which recorded the interaction between Jones and the juror.

Jones failed to show for his trial also. In addition to a charge of jury tampering, Jones has been charged with failure to appear. Those charges as well as the robbery and false imprisonment charges are all pending against Jones. Jones’ bail on the new charges is $150,000. He is scheduled to appear in cout Oct. 16.

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