MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 12, 2014

Mistrial for teacher accused of slap

Juror said she knew potential witnesses in case

By Anita Reding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the second day of the trial of a teacher accused of slapping a first-grader.

One of six jurors said she knew some of the potential witnesses, which led to the mistrial, said District Attorney Larry Moore.

Joan “Joni” Martin, 47, of Fort Gibson, was charged with assault and battery on school student in May 2013. Six jurors were seated to hear the misdemeanor case.

Special District Judge Robin Adair declared the mistrial at the request of the student’s family, Moore said. The case will be on the June jury docket.

During the preliminary remarks at the beginning of the trial, both attorneys read lists of potential witnesses, Moore said. Jurors were instructed to notify the court if they knew any of the potential witnesses.

A juror told the judge that she knew individuals at Ben Franklin Science Academy, where Martin is accused of slapping the student. The juror said she didn’t remember their names being read as potential witnesses the first day.

Defense attorney Donn Baker also told the judge that he had been informed Tuesday that the juror knew representatives from the school who were potential witnesses, Moore said.

 Baker objected to the individual remaining on the jury. He told Adair that if she had said she knew the individuals at the beginning of the trial, he would have objected to the individual being on the jury, Moore said.

Adair excused the juror and said there were two choices — the remaining five individuals could decide the case, or a mistrial could be declared and the case will be on the June jury docket.

Members of the district attorney’s office discussed the situation with the student’s family who decided they would prefer to have a mistrial, Moore said. The family’s request was then relayed to the judge.

Reach Anita Reding at (918) 684-2903 or areding@muskogeephoenix.com.