A judge will hear arguments on whether a defense attorney for a man convicted in the fatal shooting of Kantral Brooks and Esther Deneus should be allowed to interview a juror who has raised concerns that racism may have played a role in the jury’s deliberations.
Jimmie McNear, 21, was found guilty on Nov. 9 of second-degree murder in Brooks’ death, manslaughter in Deneus’ death and armed burglary. Scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 3, McNear faces up to life in prison.
The couple was killed during an armed burglary of their Bradenton home in the 3900 block of Southern Parkway in Bradenton on the early morning of July 9, 2015.
One of the 12 jurors who found McNear guilty has sent a letter to Circuit Judge Diana Moreland, who presided over the trial, that has defense attorney William Bennett questioning whether McNear, who is black, got a fair trial.
Bennett’s motion requesting an interview of the juror quoted her letter: “There is no way any black defendant could ever get a fair trial with racist evil people such as those that I had the unfortunate time sitting with,” the juror wrote to Moreland.
A hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, when Bennett will argue his case to interview the juror.
On Monday, that juror told the Bradenton Herald she was horrified by the “extreme racism” that she witnessed during jury duty. Some of the jurors were ready to convict McNear of two counts of first-degree murder without having any discussion, she said.
Her concerns that McNear would not get a fair trial by his peers began before she was even selected for the jury, she said.
“No one likes or wants to come to jury duty, but we the people are obligated to do so,” she wrote. “I said during the jury selection that I wanted to sit in because I knew from listening to the others, Jimmie would never have a fair chance if all sides were not considered.”
Ultimately, the juror was one of two African-Americans selected to hear the case. The juror’s letter also detailed how as a black woman, she says she was treated with disrespect and that points she made during deliberations were dismissed as a result.
“I have a master’s degree in human resources and pride myself in treating everyone the same. I see no color,” her letter stated.
Two defense motions since the trial, seeking a new trial or a judgment of acquittal, have already been denied by Moreland.