By DYLAN WOOLF HARRIS
Free Press Staff Writer
ELKO — District Judge Al Kacin ruled a mistrial due to juror misconduct Thursday in the trial against a prostitute accused of attempted murder.
Two jurors talked about aspects of the case despite routine instruction not to from the judge.
Trial began Tuesday for 50-year-old Sharon’s Brothel employee Lisa D. Wong, who was accused of hitting a co-worker with a claw hammer in the head, face and hand on Aug. 18. She was charged with attempted murder with the use of a deadly weapon, or alternatively battery with the use of a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm or assault with the use of a deadly weapon.
Wong was also charged with abuse of an older person for allegedly pushing Patricia Kendrick — elderly mother of brothel owner Charles Kendrick — to the floor, and burglary for allegedly entering a room to commit the crime.
Roger Stewart, chief deputy public defender, heard that two jurors had been talking and asked for a mistrial Thursday morning. The judge ordering a hearing on the matter before making a decision.
Kacin understood the impulse to talk about the case and recognized the trial contained “salacious details,” he said.
“It’s the type of case that gets the tongue wagging,” Kacin added.
But still, he said, the jury instructions given several times a day before each break are clear. The judge ordered jurors not to talk about the case and not to prematurely form opinions about the case before hearing all the evidence.
Deputy Public Defender Kriston Hill received a series of text messages Wednesday night from an impaneled juror. The attorney testified under oath Thursday, reading the messages from her phone.
“How important is it that a few of us jurors heard two jurors talking about the case in the jury room,” Hill read.
She received another message that read: “They formed an opinion on Tuesday. From what I heard.”
One juror reportedly wondered aloud about the ethnicity of victim Sang Fowler. She said she had a difficult time understanding the witness as she testified.
The second juror reportedly said he thought the reason the victim was difficult to understand was because she suffered brain damage as a result of the hammer attack.
An element of the case is that the victim suffered substantial bodily harm due to the attack. Kacin worried that these jurors had prematurely drawn conclusions about the victim.
Kacin said the reporting juror’s violation of his order was less flagrant than the other jurors’. The judge even applauded her honesty, he said, but admonished her to report concerns to the bailiff.
She indicated she could still be fair and impartial. Kacin noted, though, that the other jurors’ testimony indicated she had drawn a conclusion that the victim did not have lingering injuries from a hammer attack.
“She’s supposed to keep an open mind,” he said.
Kacin released all three jurors for misconduct, leaving not enough to fill a 12-person panel.
After the judge ruled a mistrial, Stewart asked that Wong be released on her own recognizance or have her $62,500 cash-only bail lowered.
Kacin said he would decide on those matters after the defense submitted the motions in writing.
Wong was remanded back to Elko County Jail custody.
Court staff said no hearing to reschedule the trial had been set by Thursday.