San Antonio Express-News, mySA, mysanantonio.com
BYLINE: Craig Kapitan,
San Antonio, TX
After sending a man to prison last Friday for burning a young boy, two jurors tried to leave the courthouse with evidence stuffed in their pockets, state District Judge Angus McGinty revealed Thursday during a post-trial hearing.
Now the jurors could find themselves in hot water for the alleged souvenirs of their civic duty.
McGinty convened the hearing Thursday to inform attorneys that one of the photos, a defense exhibit depicting the boy in the hospital, was still missing but has been ordered returned. Without all evidence preserved, the appellate process could get hairy, he said.
The case of the vanishing photos has been forwarded to the (Bexar County) sheriff's office for review, McGinty said, adding that it's not his place to say if a criminal action took place. Perhaps, he said, the jurors thought the evidence would be destroyed after the trial and was therefore up for grabs.
“As surprising as it is to all of us, perhaps it's reasonable for a lay person,” he said.
A District Attorney's Office investigator first noticed a single juror taking photos as the group left the building following the month-long injury to a child trial of former prison guard Henry Benson III. A search as he left the courthouse revealed about three pictures that were recovered, investigator Ruben Segovia said.
When Segovia called the jury foreman later that weekend to inquire about the irregularity, the foreman said he also had taken a photo, the investigator told the judge.
Court reporters are charged with maintaining evidence during trials. McGinty's usual employee had taken the day off on the day of the jury verdict, leaving a substitute court reporter to handle the items.
Defense attorney John Carroll declined to comment after the hearing on whether the irregularity would have any impact on his client's appeal.
“What we want to do is just make sure the record is preserved,” he told the judge.
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