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Juror's Internet research leads to dismissal of entire jury

HOUSTON, May 29 (UPI) -- A juror acknowledged he conducted research related to a capital murder trial he was hearing, prompting a Houston judge to dismiss the entire jury.

Chris Green was among 12 jurors and an alternate chosen for the murder trial, set to begin Tuesday, of Jorge Amezquita. After being ordered by Judge Maria Jackson not to do any outside research, Green went online to learn about "capital murder."

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He then wrote to Jackson, expressing concern over a "very real danger of retribution" if Amezquita was convicted. He persuaded other jurors to sign a revised version of his letter, asking their names and identities be sealed and not read in open court, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.

At a hearing Tuesday, Green testified he wrote the letter on the advice of a friend, a former felony court judge. The unusual chain of events compelled the judge to cancel the trial and begin another with the choice of a new jury, court records said.

"I've never seen anything like this. When a judge admonishes you, and in fact orders you not to do outside investigation, they're doing it for a reason, to keep the jurors focused on the evidence and the trial," said Todd Dupont of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.

Green testified he researched "capital murder" but nothing specific to Amezquita, 43, accused of killing two people in a 2008 home invasion.

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