Jury Dismissed Due to Fear for Safety

A federal judge has dismissed a jury in a day-old trial involving a suspected prison snitch and a reputed gang member after jurors said they feared for their own safety.

Senior U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton (search) discharged the six men and two women on Tuesday and declared a mistrial in the case of Joseph Gibson III (search).

The clerk of federal courts in Connecticut, Kevin Rowe, said he could not recall any other time in the past 30 years that a jury begged out of a case.

Gibson alleges in a lawsuit that prison officials failed to protect him from a vicious assault that left him with a slashed throat at the Osborn Correctional Institution (search) in Somers on Sept. 16, 1999.

Gibson says he was attacked by a member of the Terminators gang, which he claimed served as the enforcer for the Latin Kings (search) drug gang.

Gibson said he was targeted for a hit because he was suspected of being an informer and one of his friends owed the Latin Kings money for drugs.

The lawsuit names Leslie Brooks, former warden at Osborn, and prison guard Glenn Diefenderfor and accuses them of failing to protect Gibson from cruel and unusual punishment.

Gibson claims he told Diefenderfor that he was being targeted by a four-man hit squad three days before the attack. He said he gave the names of the four suspects to Diefenderfor and that Diefenderfor assured him he would be protected.

Three of the four men were moved to other prisons, but the fourth caught up with Gibson as Gibson was frantically trying to call Diefenderfor and slashed his throat. Gibson escaped death but was left with a wound that required 12 staples to close.

The assailant was never charged with the case because Gibson failed to cooperate with the state police investigation.

Gibson claimed that Diefenderfor accompanied him to the hospital and apologized for allowing the assault to happen. Diefenderfor denied that allegation.

Diefenderfor told a different story on the witness stand. He claimed the men were moved to other prisons because Gibson said their lives were threatened.

Joseph Merly, one of Gibson's lawyers, had him show the scar to the jury this week.

"Something really spooked the jury," Merly said. "You know sometimes we forget how this must sound to lay people."

The jury's request came against the backdrop of the recent murders of a federal judge's husband and mother in Illinois and a state judge and some courthouse staff in Atlanta.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (search), whose office is representing Brooks and Diefenderfor, said a jury wanting out of a trial is rare, but especially so in Gibson's case because it was not a criminal prosecution.

Gibson said he has a host of medical problems that were caused by the attack and is seeking monetary damages.