Crime

Trial for three charged in Zodiac Lounge case postponed

The trial was postponed Tuesday for three men accused of participating in events at The Zodiac Lounge July 5, 2013, the night when a Macon teenager was fatally shot.

Jury selection began Monday for Andre Maurice Bonner, Johnifer Denard Barnwell and Kewaunis King, but that process was abandoned Tuesday, and potential jurors were sent home amid concerns the pool had been tainted beyond repair.

A new pool of jurors is set to report April 23 for jury selection. The trial is set to begin April 27 in Bibb County Superior Court.

Bonner, 32, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Jamonni Bland.

A security guard allegedly saw the shooting as he escorted club patrons to safety after other shots had been fired at Deion Davis inside the club.

Barnwell, 28, and King, 25, are accused of participating in a gang beating of Davis, who also suffered eight gunshots but survived.

Bonner, Barnwell and King face multiple charges stemming from their alleged association with Macon’s Mafia street gang.

Nine people have been charged in the case. Three have pleaded guilty to their part in beating Davis. Cases also still are pending against John Michael Hollingshed Jr., 29; Percy Welch Jr., 39; and alleged getaway driver Miranda Victoria Pettiway, 29.

A series of concerns led to Tuesday’s postponement:

One juror was excused from duty Monday after she disclosed having a conversation about the case with King’s sister, who also had been called for jury duty. King’s sister was also excused.

On Monday afternoon, jurors were called into the courtroom in groups of 12 for questioning. While the second group of 12 was questioned, King’s lawyer, Catherine Bernard, said prosecutors had gathered criminal history reports on the potential jurors.

Judge Howard Simms ruled Tuesday that 11 of the jurors be excused because Bernard’s statement had tainted the group. A 12th juror already had been excused for other reasons.

On Tuesday, during a hearing outside jurors’ presence, prosecutor Sandra Matson said criminal history data had been pulled for one juror. The law allows prosecutors to use criminal history information to determine if a potential juror is a convicted felon, which would bar them from service on a jury.

Concerns also arose Tuesday after court personnel learned two potential jurors had talked with family or friends of the accused men.

Another juror reported to the clerk’s office that he knew two of the defendants and didn’t want to serve on the jury.

As part of his ruling, Simms said from the bench that not enough of the original 55 potential jurors remained to continue with the process because of the number of people excused or who would later be excused.

He also expressed concern about the amount of time it would take to choose a jury given the slow pace the process had been taking.

To streamline the process April 23 and 24, jurors will receive questionnaires seeking biographical information to fill out in advance.

Deputies will escort potential jurors at the courthouse April 23 and 24. The final dozen and two alternates chosen to hear the case will be escorted by deputies daily from an off-site secret location to attend court, Simms said.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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