Judge declares mistrial in homicide of councilwoman's nephew

Juror misconduct was blamed for the decision to declare a mistrial in the high-profile murder of an Atlanta City Council member's relative.

Fulton County Judge Jerry Baxter declared a mistrial Monday after a juror notified him that two other jurors had done their own "investigations" of the evidence over the weekend.

"It's very upsetting that jurors would disregard the instruction I have given multiple times during the trial," Judge Baxter said in court.

Alleged gang members Rashad Barber, Ryan Bowdery and David Wallace are all charged in the shooting death of Darrius Bottoms in June 2014.  Bottoms is the nephew of Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms. 

A male juror admitted in court that he asked a law enforcement officer for information about fingerprint evidence while getting fingerprinted for a concealed carry permit. 

A second juror went by the scene of the murder.

"Ma'am, I've been informed that you drove by the crime scene?"  Baxter asked her during the proceedings. 

"That is correct," the juror responded. 

"And how did that occur?  I mean, did you go over there just to see it?"  Baxter asked. 

"Yeah," she said.  "I went by just to see it." 

Both jurors admitted to sharing this information with the rest of the jury.  When asked by Judge Baxter, one juror said he could not set that information aside while deciding a verdict. 

"What that means is that we will get a chance to try this case over again," said Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.  "The jurors are supposed to make a decision based upon the evidence that is presented in court.  So, when the jurors bring in outside factors, that might have something to do with the verdict that they return, that is illegal and that is why the judge declared a mistrial." 

Judge Baxter said it will likely be November or December before the case will be retried.

"It is disappointing that a mistrial has been declared," Councilwoman Bottoms said in a statement.  "While I trust that justice will ultimately be served, the tragedy remains that a life has been stolen and other lives have been wasted."

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