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2:25 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

Smith jury put back to work

Mohave Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss on Wednesday denied a defense motion for a mistrial in the murder prosecution of Chip Smith after one of the 12 jurors was dismissed.

Smith is being tried a second time for the fatal shooting of Chris Payton on Aug.

13, 2001, in Golden Valley.

The first trial ended in March with a hung jury.

One of the two alternate jurors who sat in on the trial but has not been involved in deliberations was called to sit on the jury as it renewed deliberations today.

On Wednesday, jurors were to hear additional arguments from the prosecution and defense attorneys, but that plan was delayed when the jury foreman wrote a letter to Weiss questioning a juror's intentions.

The letter was a complaint that one of three male jurors was not following the court's instructions.

Specifically, the jury foreman said the juror in question was not acting in good faith, according to Weiss.

According to portions of the jury foreman's letter read in court, the foreman, a woman, indicated that a male juror was not equally considering testimony of people who testified that they had used drugs compared with those who might not have.

Weiss called each of the 12 jurors separately in to the courtroom and asked them at least four questions.

Defense attorney Michael Hruby objected to questioning any of the jurors and motioned for a mistrial.

"This jury has been very tainted and has acted inappropriately," Hruby said.

One of the four questions Weiss asked each juror was whether or not the jurors already had considered punishment of Smith during deliberations, which began Monday, and whether they could continue deliberating without considering punishment.

Weiss told the court that the juror's dismissal occurred because the juror was considering punishment for Smith as he was deciding guilt or innocence.

The male juror who was dismissed said in court that he couldn't help but consider punishment, at least in a general sense, because of the knowledge that if Smith were found guilty, he would be punished.

Weiss told the juror that although he respects and understands his point of view, he must dismiss him based upon his answers to the court's questions.

During her questioning, another juror said she had considered Smith's punishment "a little bit" but could continue deliberating without considering punishment.

In response to a different question, yet another juror said the jury hadn't considered circumstantial evidence previously, while the other jurors said that they had.

Weiss didn't think this caused a lot of concern, however.