By Jessica Clark
First Coast News
PALATKA, FL -- Justin Barber sat in a Putnam County courtroom Tuesday morning.
Two motions filed by Barber's attorney were to be heard in this post-trial hearing. One was a motion for a new trial, which is common in a death penalty case. The other was a motion to interview jurors, a less common motion.
In June, a St. Johns County jury found Barber guilty of murdering his wife in 2002 at Guana River State Park.
Barber's attorney, Bob Willis, wants to interview the jury. Willis says he has strong suspicions that jurors may have heard or heard about commentary on Court TV during the course of the trial. The commentary Willis is referring to is that delivered by Maureen Christine. She was the original prosecutor in the Barber case.
Willis said she commented on national television about testimony and evidence that was not brought into the murder trial in June. That testimony and evidence, he says, was previously deemed not relevant to the murder case.
Willis told the judge Tuesday, "We can go through these tapes and show you where she repeatedly made reference to that very subject matter which was kept out of evidence because in most of the instances, the state conceded it was irrelevant. So the point is, this is not commentary or background or something. This is the most sinister possible thing to put out in the public airwaves."
Christine had been subpoenaed to testify Tuesday, but she was a no-show.
She filed a motion for a protective order twelve minutes before the close of business Friday. In it, she says she was scheduled for three trials Tuesday and could not be at the Barber hearing.
However, Willis said Tuesday in the courtroom that he did not know until the last minute that Christine had filed the motion.
The judge ruled the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office had not followed state statute and had improperly served Christine the subpoenas.
Willis said he needed Christine in the courtroom in order to continue the hearing. However, Assistant State Attorney Chris France said Christine's presence was not necessary because Barber's attorneys' motion to interview jurors was only based on speculation that a juror heard something Christine said on Court TV.
France said, "I don't see what more Ms. Christine can add to the motion they filed."
The jury was ordered to not view, read, or listen to media reports about the case during the trial.
Ultimately, the judge rescheduled the hearing for Tuesday, September 12 at 9 a.m. at the St. Johns County Courthouse.
First Coast News