The Southern Standard, by Duane Sherrill —
A lone juror holding to his or her beliefs forced a mistrial Friday evening as jurors in the Joy Slatton case returned hopelessly deadlocked after hearing three days of testimony claiming the seven-term trustee paid her daughters for work they did not perform.
With the mistrial, the former county official still remains charged with a variety of felonies and misdemeanors claiming theft, alteration of government records, and official misconduct. Barring a settlement or out-of-court resolution of the charges, the case will be re-docketed for a second trial once a new jury pool is picked in early 2008.
However, even with a hung jury, Slatton’s defense attorney, Michael Galligan, believes the outcome is positive.
“The state gave its best shot and didn’t get a conviction,” Galligan said, noting he hopes special prosecutor Glenn Funk will decide not to seek a re-trial. “This trial was held at enormous cost and a re-trial would just increase those costs.”
Galligan’s comments come amid unconfirmed reports from inside the jury room that jurors were ready to acquit Slatton on all felony counts, but were ready to convict her on some of the misdemeanors. Informed sources say a lone juror refused to side with other jurors to convict Slatton on the misdemeanor counts after the group all agreed to acquit the former trustee on her felony counts.
However, since the jury could not reach a decision on all counts, they were not allowed to return verdicts on any of the counts.
Informed sources also revealed some of the jurors were ready to acquit on the misdemeanor charges too until the county’s policy manual was consulted, changing the way most of them were going to vote on the misdemeanors.
Jurors began their deliberation just before noon Friday and continued through supper, finally giving up around 8 p.m. While the jury foreman did say there was a split in the jury, he did not publicly reveal which way the split happened or on what specific counts.
Slatton still faces around 30 counts after the counts involving her surviving daughter, Gaye Lentz, were dismissed due to the statute of limitations. Slatton is presently facing charges for paying her daughter, Rene Brown, now deceased, for time prosecutors say she did not work while battling cancer at various points between 2001 and 2005.
Funk maintains Slatton’s conduct was an abuse of her office, telling jurors during closing statements Friday that the former trustee lied about the money her daughter was paid.
‘If you’re going to tell a lie you better have a good memory,’ Funk told jurors, pointing out Slatton changed her story on several occasions while testifying Thursday. ‘She wasn’t even consistent in her stories when she was on the witness stand.’
In addition to changing her story, Funk said Slatton tried to blame people for taking records from her office, a claim which is not logical.
‘These secret books were so secret that no one had seen them before,’ Funk said, suggesting Slatton lied about keeping attendance records.
Funk concluded by saying Slatton had been in office so long that she began seeing the people’s office as her own office.
‘It’s an election to service, not an election to privilege,’ Funk said. ‘Somewhere during her 28 years, she forgot it was an election to service.’
Given the hung jury, Funk said he wants to get a firm picture of the jury’s vote to gauge the state’s standing when it comes to re-trying the charges. However, at this point, he says the charges against Slatton still stand.
Funk was given the prosecutor’s job after then-District Attorney Dale Potter recused himself because he used to be married to Gaye Lentz, making Slatton his former mother-in-law.