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Defense Says Trial Notes May Have Tainted Pa. Jury

November 02, 2002|From Associated Press

YORK, Pa. — Attorneys for two men convicted last month in the 1969 race-riot slaying of a young black woman say a juror's trial notes may have tainted other jurors' recollections of the case.

The 11 pages of typed notes violated the spirit of the state's rules of criminal procedure that are designed to allow jurors to form opinions based on their own recollections, the attorneys argue.

The notes were distributed to jury members with the judge's approval.

Defense attorneys want to put the jurors on the stand in a bid to overturn the Oct. 19 convictions of Robert Messersmith, 53, and Gregory Neff, 54.

In all, 10 white men were charged in the murder of Lillie Belle Allen more than three decades after she was shot to death during race riots that tore apart the city of York.

Six pleaded guilty, former Mayor Charlie Robertson was acquitted, and the final man has yet to go to trial. Defense attorneys hope, through the questioning of jurors, to show that the panel that convicted Messersmith and Neff was tainted by the opinions of the juror who compiled the notes.

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