LOCKPORT – Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas declared a mistrial Thursday in the case of an alleged drug dealer after learning that jurors were discussing information in newspaper articles published before the trial.
A juror sent Farkas a note about two hours into deliberations in the case of Frank D. Murphy, 29, of Walnut Avenue, Niagara Falls. The note said that at least one juror had brought up information he remembered from stories about Murphy that wasn’t mentioned during trial testimony.
Specifically, a juror recalled that Murphy had a prior felony conviction in Ohio, information that was mentioned in open court during a June 30 discussion of a possible plea offer.
The Buffalo News and the Niagara Gazette both reported the information about Murphy’s prior record last week. Jury selection started Monday.
Jurors are warned repeatedly during all trials that they are not allowed to use any information other than evidence presented in the courtroom in considering a verdict. After all 12 jurors were interviewed about the matter separately Thursday, Farkas granted defense attorney David Mansour’s motion for a mistrial.
Farkas set bail at $5,000 and ordered the sides to return to court July 24 to discuss a new trial date.
Since Monday, Murphy, who uses a wheelchair, had been held without bail after delaying the start of jury selection by not showing up Monday morning. He told Mansour by cellphone that he was in Erie County Medical Center, being treated for a bladder infection. That was false; police found Murphy at his home.
Murphy is charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance in a July 23 incident in the Falls.