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Sacramento juror arrested on felony warrants during deliberations

A Sacramento Superior Court juror in the murder trial of three men accused of firing the shots that killed a 3-year-old boy during a July 2012 drive-by shooting was arrested on outstanding felony warrants Wednesday, forcing the panel to restart its deliberations.

The unidentified juror was arrested approximately at noon Wednesday at Sacramento County Courthouse, 720 Ninth St., after deputies dispatched to serve the warrant were told he was serving on a jury, Sacramento County sheriff’s Sgt. Lisa Bowman said Thursday. He remains in Sacramento County custody in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Bowman said deputies called sheriff’s courthouse bailiffs who met with Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene Balonon, presiding over the case, and attorneys outside of the jury’s presence. They then called the juror into the courtroom, where he was arrested, Bowman said. Bowman said the arrest warrant was written after the juror had been selected to the panel.

Jurors heard closing arguments Monday in the case. Deliberations had entered their second day at the time of the Wednesday arrest. An alternate juror was sworn in on Thursday. By rule, if a deliberating juror is unable to complete the duties, an alternate will step in and deliberations will start from the beginning, said Meredith Bostian, Sacramento Superior Court director of civil operations.

About 220 people were called as potential jurors in the emotionally charged case – nearly four times the average pool of 65 jurors for a felony trial, representing a cross-section of Sacramento County residents, Bostian said at the beginning of trial. Bostian did not discuss Wednesday’s arrest, but said she hadn’t ever heard of a juror being arrested during trial.

Veteran defense attorney Jesse Ortiz represents Eric Minjares, 20, who, along with Gabriel Quintaro, 23, and Marcus Weber, 19, is accused in the July 4, 2012, shooting death of Jorge Azios III, 3, at Loucreta and Palmer House drives in south Sacramento as the boy slept in the back of the Ford Expedition his father drove. Ortiz said seeing a juror taken into custody was a first.

“We found out about this during the lunch hour, that there was a warrant for his arrest,” Ortiz said. “I’ve never had it happen before.”

Prosecutors say the three defendants borrowed a sport-utility vehicle at an Independence Day party in south Sacramento, then tracked down the car driven by the young Azios’ father before opening fire.

Defense attorneys say the three are innocent of the charges, citing an absence of fingerprints or DNA in the vehicle and pointing instead to the sport-utility vehicle’s owner, Anthony Canales, who testified at trial he had plotted revenge against the older Azios’ brother for a Florin Road gunbattle in July 2011.

Deliberations continue Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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