Skittish juror again halts deliberations in Granville murder trial
Posted August 2
Oxford, N.C. — A Superior Court judge on Wednesday put the trial of a man accused of killing a Granville County couple in 2014 on hold for a month after a juror said she was unsure if she could continue deliberations.
Eric Campbell, 24, of Alvin, Texas, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, second-degree arson, robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle, financial card theft, identity theft and two counts of cruelty to animals in the Dec. 31, 2014, deaths of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife, Dora Faulkner, 62.
Judge Henry Hight on Friday sent the jury home early for the weekend after one juror asked to be excused from deliberations. The jury sent a note to Hight after more than four hours of deliberations, saying one juror wanted to be dismissed "due to being unable to properly evaluate the case."
Deliberations were then delayed Monday when the same juror was in a car accident and couldn't come to court.
The juror walked into court on Wednesday with visible injuries, and she was in tears as Hight spoke to her privately.
"Life happens, and that’s where we are. We’re just trying to make sure that you are OK in where you are in relation to this trial," the judge said. "We want to make sure that if we went for a while and came back ... that you would be able to participate as a juror in this case. Do you feel like you could do that?"
"I know this is very important. If I have to do it, I will do it, but I’d prefer not to," she replied.
She said she has a broken arm from the accident and is scheduled for surgery next week. After that, she said she will need to be on pain medication for two weeks.
Hight delayed further deliberations until Aug. 28.
"She’s in obvious distress. I am concerned about her ability to continue, even after the physical distress," defense attorney Amos Tyndall said. "I’m just not sure she can adequately evaluate that as bad as she feels right now, honestly."
All five alternate jurors were dismissed when deliberations began last Thursday, so dismissing a juror now would force Hight to declare a mistrial in the case.
Chance of mistrial increased
Hight said he has never seen "anything like this in a case like this" in his 33 years on the bench and said he hopes he can avoid a mistrial, given the time and money both sides have invested in the case already.
Scott Holmes, a professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law, said a mistrial becomes more likely with each passing day.
"The court has ordered them not to read media accounts, not to do their own investigation, not to discuss it with other people, and it’s just almost unimaginable that regular folk could go back and do their work and re-enter their lives and go about their business for three weeks and not talk about this case to somebody," Holmes said.
Jurors memories of the testimony also will fade, which could lead to disagreements when deliberations resume, resulting in a hung jury, he said.
Although prosecutors usually have an easier time getting a conviction in a retrial because they already know the defense strategy, Holmes said, they also have to weigh the expense of a second time and the emotional toll it takes on the victims' family and friends.
"When there's a risk of a mistrial, that often puts the prosecutor in a position of trying to make a tough call between trying to get a verdict of what they want or settling for something less to try and get a resolution and guarantee a conviction," he said. "These kind of cases can be agony for everybody. The person who’s on trial certainly has, is on trial for their life."
Authorities say Campbell and his father, Edward Watson Campbell, stormed into the Faulkners' home in northern Granville County, robbed them, killed them and set fire to the house before fleeing in both the couple's Chevrolet Silverado and a stolen SUV.
Police in Lewisburg, W.Va., arrested the Campbells on Jan. 1, 2015, following a shootout, and investigators found the Faulkners' bodies under a mattress in the back of the pickup.
Edward Campbell killed himself two months later in Raleigh’s Central Prison, leaving his son to face trial alone in the case.
Eric Campbell's defense has argued throughout the three-week trial that Edward Campbell committed the crimes and that Eric Campbell suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father, which left him incapable of standing up to his father and preventing the carnage in the Faulkners' home.
But prosecutors insisted that one person couldn't have inflicted all of the injuries the Faulkners suffered and that Eric Campbell made "conscious choices and deliberate decisions" to support his father before and after the killings.
If Campbell is convicted of first-degree murder, he could face the death penalty.