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YOUNGSTOWN Killer seeks new trial over juror



Published: Fri, January 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The juror says he changed his vote for fear of prosecution and need of medicine.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A man imprisoned for murder wants a new trial, saying that one of the jurors who convicted him was undermedicated, coerced and untruthful.

Melvin Hughes, 31, of East Marion Avenue, is serving 36 years to life in prison for aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and a firearm specification. He killed 25-year-old Eugene McKinney with an AK-47 assault rifle at McKinney's Ferndale Avenue home in September 2001.

In documents filed this week in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, Atty. Douglas B. Taylor says a mistrial is in order because of juror conduct he found out about after the trial.

The juror: The juror in question, a 72-year-old Charlotte Avenue man, is a diabetic who requires medication to control his blood sugar level. During the first day of deliberation in Hughes' trial, the man had been adamant in his belief that prosecutors had not proven the aggravated burglary charge.

The juror signed an affidavit saying that his need for medication affected his ability to deliberate, so he changed his vote from innocent to guilty -- simply so the matter would conclude and he could go home.

The jury foreman would not allow that, though, and the jury went home for the night.

When the panel returned the next day, the man was again firm in his stance that the aggravated burglary charge had not been proven, according to court records. That time, others jurors accused him of holding out because he knows Hughes, which the man denies in his affidavit.

He changed his vote again to guilty, this time for fear of being prosecuted himself if he did not follow the will of the majority, the affidavit says.

"I rendered a verdict of guilty because of my physical condition and my fear of prosecution for an offense that I did not commit," the affidavit says.

Taylor also said the same juror did not disclose on a standard questionnaire that he had been convicted and imprisoned in 1951 for heroin possession.

Objection: Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Franken said he'll file a response objecting to Taylor's request because he doesn't believe the juror's activity rises to the level of misconduct. He'll also ask that a hearing be held so lawyers can argue before Judge Maureen A. Cronin makes a ruling on the mistrial.

"It's tough to overturn a jury's verdict," Franken said. "Jurors change their minds all the time."

bjackson@vindy.com




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