ELKO, Nev. – An ex-prostitute accused of attacking a co-worker with a claw hammer in a dispute over missing beer at a rural Nevada brothel will be retried on an attempted murder charge after a judge declared a mistrial because a juror sent text messages to a public defender about the jury, prosecutors said Friday.
Elko County Deputy District Attorney Mark Mills told The Associated Press on Friday that "numerous jurors" disregarded the court's warning to not discuss the trial while the case was ongoing.
One juror texted a public defender Wednesday night about two other jurors talking about — among other things — the ethnicity of the victim, Sang Fowler, who suffered severe injuries to her head and hand in the beating at Sharon's Bar and Brothel in Carlin about 25 miles west of Elko last August.
Elko County District Judge Al Kacin acknowledged the case is full of "salacious details" before declaring the mistrial on Thursday and ordering Lisa Wong, 50, back to the county jail, according to the Elko Daily Free Press (http://tinyurl.com/mqp37mn ).
"It's the type of case that gets the tongue wagging," Kacin said.
Kacin applauded the honesty of the juror who came forward, but said she too had disregarded his instructions to report any concerns to the bailiff.
The judge dismissed all three jurors from the 12-member panel for misconduct and, with only two alternates remaining, was forced to declare the mistrial. He said he would wait until after the defense submits new motions in writing to rule on a request to release Wong on her own recognizance of have her bail reduced.
Deputy Public Defender Kriston Hill told the judge at the opening of Thursday's hearing she had received a series of text messages Wednesday night from one of the jurors.
Kacin ordered a brief hearing to determine if the communication constituted jury misconduct and after Hill was sworn in, she read the messages from her phone.
"How important is it that a few of us jurors heard two jurors talking about the case in the jury room?" Hill read. She said another message read: "They formed an opinion on Tuesday, from what I heard."
One juror reportedly wondered aloud about Fowler's ethnicity, saying she had a difficult time understanding the witness as she testified. The second juror reportedly said he thought the reason Fowler was difficult to understand was because she suffered brain damage as a result of the hammer attack.
Hill did not indicate how the juror obtained her phone number.
Mills said during opening arguments earlier this week that Wong screamed she was going to kill Fowler while she was beating her with the hammer at the brothel. He said the trouble began days earlier when Wong overheard Fowler tell Fowler's mother, brothel owner Patricia Kendrick, 79, that two beers were missing from the bar.
Wong took that as an accusation against her, Mills said, and tempers brewed for a few days until Wong followed Fowler into a bedroom and attacked her.
Wong's lead public defender, Roger Stewart, said during his opening argument that evidence would show Fowler instigated the fight.
Information from: Elko Daily Free Press, http://www.elkodaily.com