Jurors in the January murder trial of Shane E. Pardoe will be ordered back to an Anne Arundel County courtroom to answer defense allegations that might result in a new trial.
In an unusual order, Circuit Judge Pamela L. North told county prosecutors in a hearing yesterday to subpoena the jury that convicted Pardoe. She acted after accusations were made that several jurors wrongly discussed the case before hearing all the evidence.
North's decision to question the jurors under oath is a setback for prosecutors, who argued that the allegations coming from people tied to Pardoe's defense were not believable.
North said she was "very concerned" about the allegations. "If he committed the murder, I want him convicted of it," she said. But, she added, if jurors acted improperly, "I want him to have a new trial."
A jury convicted Pardoe, 21, of the 300 block of Lori Drive in Glen Burnie, of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the Feb. 11, 1999, slaying of Robert E. Hightower, 18, who lived nearby. Pardoe, scheduled to be sentenced April 10, could receive a life term.
Within days of the verdict, Pardoe's lawyer, Stephen R. Tully, sought a new trial, claiming juror misconduct tainted the conviction.
Nicholas Coggiano, a relative of a friend of Pardoe, testified in yesterday's hearing that he was outside the courthouse at the end of a trial day when he heard a male juror tell three female jurors that the trial "was a waste of time. He's guilty, I know he's guilty." Coggiano said that one of the women agreed as the other two nodded.
Jurors are to discuss a case only after they have heard both sides and only in closed-door deliberations.
Yesterday, an uncle by marriage of Pardoe, Billy L. Holder, testified that he overheard a male juror in the courthouse cafeteria make a remark about evidence during a lunch break.
He said he heard the man say to a woman, "I couldn't believe what he did with those Timberland boots." During the trial, prosecution evidence and testimony indicated that Pardoe was wearing Hightower's boots when arrested.
Coggiano and Holder said they told others immediately, but Tully, Pardoe's lawyer, said word did not reach him until after the verdict, or he would have sought a mistrial before the case was concluded.
Assistant State's Attorney Frank J. Ragione said he was not told of Coggiano's allegation until yesterday.
A detective, David McDonald, testified that he questioned three male jurors who fit the general description of the one who made the boots remark. All signed affidavits saying they did not discuss the case with anyone in the cafeteria.
The defense lawyers in the hearing questioned which of the men might have been in the cafeteria and on which day of the trial, because the affidavits were conflicting.
Pardoe was one of three people convicted in Hightower's murder, but the only one to go to trial. He testified that he acted in self-defense because Hightower threatened to kill him, his friend and girlfriend after a party at Pardoe's apartment that featured heavy drinking and drug use.
David J. Shepeta, 21, of the 100 block of Kent Road in Glen Burnie, pleaded guilty to murder in October. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June.
Shepeta testified that Pardoe planned to kill Hightower while he was passed out on a sofa. Pardoe, however, testified that he was wresting a gun from Hightower when Shepeta bludgeoned the victim with a hammer.
Corinne A. Catramados, 20, of the first block of McGuirk Road in Glen Burnie, pleaded guilty in July to being an accessory after the fact. She admitted to cleaning Pardoe's blood-soaked apartment.
She was given a five-year suspended sentence last month and ordered to carry the victim's photo during her five-year probation.