One by one yesterday, jurors-turned-witnesses testified that they neither made nor heard improper remarks by other jurors in a highly charged murder trial in January, though a defense investigator swore otherwise.
One juror from the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court murder trial of Shane E. Pardoe has yet to take the witness stand in a hearing that could lead to a new trial for the 21-year-old Glen Burnie man convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy. Attorneys would not characterize what they expect that juror to say.
Judge Pamela L. North ordered the jurors to court after two men linked to the defendant contended that they heard jurors discuss the case before deliberations. Prosecutors consider the allegations highly suspect, while the defense maintains they are credible. Jurors are warned by the judge not to talk about a case except during deliberations.
None of the jurors nor the two alternates have supported the two men's allegations.
Pardoe's private investigator, Earl Nesbit, a retired Baltimore police detective, told North that one juror told him he heard that other jurors spoke about the case, but that he had not.
"He stated he later learned that jurors had made comments about the case," Nesbit said.
However, on the witness stand, the juror said he never told that to the investigator.
Defense lawyer Stephen R. Tully said he had no reason not to believe Nesbit: "If the investigator was going to make it up, the investigator would have made it up a lot better."
Jurors were not told why they were subpoenaed, and most appeared confused at being asked such questions as where they lunched on which trial day and whether they spoke about the case before hearing all the evidence.
Shortly after the verdict in January, two men, one married to Pardoe's step-aunt and the other the uncle of friend of Pardoe, alleged that they heard jurors speak about the case while the trial was going on. Both testified at a hearing last month.
Nicholas Coggiano, the friend's uncle, said he heard the remarks outside the Annapolis courthouse.
Gail Winebrenner, an aunt who helped raise Pardoe, said later that she thinks prosecutors have been unfair and have withheld information because Pardoe turned down plea offers and claimed self-defense at trial.
Two other people pleaded guilty in connection with the Feb. 11, 1999, murder in deals that led them to testify against Pardoe, who could be sentenced to life in prison.
David Hightower, father of the victim, 18-year-old Robert E. Hightower, said that he feels the defense is trying to dodge the guilty verdict and that North appeared sympathetic to the allegations of juror misconduct.