A juror with back issues has been excused from deliberations in suspended Sheriff Victor Hill’s federal trial on seven counts of violating pretrial detainees’ rights under color of law. Judge Eleanor Ross questioned the alternate juror separately as to whether she had seen media reports of the trial or done any research online. The juror stated that she had not and that her only communication about the trial had been an e-mail to the clerk to ask what her responsibilities were for today.
Prior to the alternate juror’s arrival. defense attorney Drew Findling had objected and called for a mistrial. Ross denied that motion.
On Monday, the jury had sent out a note indicating that they had reached a verdict on two counts but were “deadlocked” on five. Ross instructed them to continue deliberations.
In a second note, they asked for advice on what to do about a juror who they alleged was twisting definitions of words to fit a preconceived outcome. Ross called them in and gave them an Allen charge, which is nicknamed the “dynamite” charge because it insists that jurors consider carefully the evidence in the case and not be afraid to change their minds. At the same time, an Allen charge warns jurors not to go along with peer pressure if they are genuinely persuaded that the evidence does not support the conclusion that other jurors might have reached.
Around 4:45 p.m. Monday, the jurors sent out a third note, saying they were 11-1 on the remaining charges and asking if they could go home and start fresh today, which Ross allowed.
Hill’s social media stream noted the five deadlocked charges but did not mention the two verdicts, which were not published and likely will remain sealed, as those were never officially released to the court.
Both fans and foes of Hill are watching the case closely.
Should Hill be convicted of any felony charge, he would lose his position as sheriff. If that happens, Chief Deputy Boehrer would serve as acting sheriff until a special election. The relevant code sections are:
- O.C.G.A. 45-5-2: The sheriff’s office is vacated immediately “upon final conviction of a felony”
- O.C.G.A. 45-5-1: a special election would be held for a new sheriff
- O.C.G.A. 15-16-8: the chief deputy serves as acting sheriff until the special election if fewer than 6 months are left in the sheriff’s term. If more than 6 months remain in the ousted sheriff’s term, the elections superintendent would call for a special election at the next available special election date at least 60 days after the vacancy occurs. Who0ever wins that special election would finish out the rest of Hill’s term. Then another sheriff’s race would take place during the next full term.
If convicted, Hill also would lose his POST certification as a law enforcement officer and likely would face prison time. Georgia POST does have the power to make exceptions for applicants who were convicted of a felony but granted first offender status; Hill already has had first offender status stemming from his 2015 shooting of real estate agent Gwenevere McCord in a Gwinnett County model home. Hill pleaded no contest in the shooting, which he said was an accident.
As of press time, the jury is deliberating anew. The Clayton Crescent will update events as they happen.