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Mistrial declared in Pinellas murder trial of man accused of burning girlfriend

LARGO

LARGO — A mistrial was declared in a murder case this week after a juror admitted to looking at a news story about the crime.

The move means prosecutors, defense attorneys and a judge will need to try again to conduct a trial for Jeffrey Robert Grant, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend, Jennifer Guthrie, in 2010.

"It is very frustrating," said Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Thomas McGrady. "There was a whole lot of time, effort and money spent to try this case, a very serious case."

The scrapped trial shows the increasing difficulty the legal system has as it tries to maintain fair trials for defendants in an age when all manner of information is available at jurors' fingertips.

Jurors are routinely told not to read or watch news articles about court cases until they're over.

This case began Monday before Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Timothy Peters, and jurors began deliberating Thursday. At one point Thursday, one juror told another that he had seen an article on his computer about the case Monday. He also maintained he had not actually read the article.

Peters, after hearing the matter discussed in court, declared a mistrial.

"You've got a juror who didn't say anything until late in the game; this is after four days in the trial," McGrady said. "It's just difficult to understand."

Assistant State Attorney David Tobiassen said his office will be ready to try the case again.

Grant is accused of killing Guthrie by dousing her with gasoline and lighting her on fire.

Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect the following correction:

A judge declared a mistrial in the Jeffrey Robert Grant murder trial this week because a juror admitted to looking at a news article about the case. A story in Friday's Times gave an incorrect reason.

Contact Curtis Krueger at ckrueger@tampabay.com or (727) 892-8232. Follow @ckruegertimes.

Mistrial declared in Pinellas murder trial of man accused of burning girlfriend 08/21/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2:25pm]

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