Did Anti-Gay Bias Play a Role in Guilty Verdict?
In a trial that had nothing to do with sexual orientation, that issue suddenly became the focus after an alternate juror accused another juror of anti-gay bias against Mario Careaga, who was convicted last week of a DUI manslaughter that killed Miami Heat dancer Nancy Lopez-Ruiz in 2010.
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The alternate accused the male juror of exhibiting "classic homophobic behavior," but when pressed couldn’t come up with anything more specific than just a "feeling." The main accusation consisted of the main juror allegedly mocking the voice of a gay witness when he asked for a glass of water. None of the other jurors, when questioned though, was able to back up those claims. One other juror overheard some "murmuring" and that was it.
The prosecution, though, accused the alternate of having his own biases when he described the main juror as a "redneck" and a "construction type of guy."
The defense, however, said the main juror lacked credibility and implied he was lying because he outright denied all of the accusations against him, which also included trying to discuss the case with other jurors before the trial was over (which is against the rules), calling the defense attorney an "asshole," saying a defense witness was "lying through her teeth," and entering the jury room saying "We the jury find the defendant..." before being cut off by the other jurors. Some of those other jurors did partially back up the claims.
But those claims, and the evidence, weren’t enough for Broward Circuit Judge Ilona M. Holmes to declare a mistrial.
"There is no evidence to suggest that he was convicted by this jury because of sexual preference," Holmes said.
Careaga faces between four and 15 years and is scheduled for sentencing on May 5.