Trial between city of Picayune and architect firm declared mistrial because juror related to member of Council

Published 4:34 pm Monday, April 19, 2021

A court case between the city of Picayune vs Landry Lewis Germany Architects was deemed a mistrial on Friday because the court discovered one member of the jury had “a familiar relationship with a member of the city of Picayune’s Board of Aldermen (City Council),” according to an order signed by Circuit Court Judge Anthony Mozingo on April 16, 2021.

According to previous coverage  the case was filed by the city against the architectural firm due to flooding issues that occurred at the side of City Hall where the building was expanded. The architectural firm was involved in the project to expand historic City Hall, which started in 2011. After that project was complete in March of 2013, flooding occurred in the building during more than one major rain event, leading to the suit being filed.

Court proceedings took place last week in Circuit Court, ending on Friday when Judge Mozingo made the decision to declare a mistrial based on the finding that a member of the City Council’s family was on the jury.

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“The Court finds, during closing arguments, and before the jury began deliberating, the court learned a juror did not, during voir dire, inform the court of a familiar relationship with a member of the (City Council),” the order states.

“The Court met in chambers with all counsel and the juror, and questioned the juror. The Court finds the juror did not purposely fail to inform the court of that relationship. However, had this relationship been disclosed during voir dire, the Court would have, on its own motion, excused the juror for cause,” the order states.

Since that left only 11 people on the jury, and the defendant did not waive its right for a 12-person jury, a mistrial was declared, the order states.

City Manager Jim Luke declined to comment if anyone from the city knew the family member was on the jury, citing the Council’s intention to talk to the city’s attorneys during executive session at the end of Tuesday’s planned City Council meeting. That discussion will also include whether the city will refile the lawsuit. Luke added that the matter will more than likely be something for the next administration to discuss.