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Mistrial declared in shooting of St. Petersburg cop after Blockbuster robbery

Velislav Matzov, center, is escorted Tuesday into a Pinellas courtroom, where he faces charges in a 2008 holdup at a Blockbuster.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Velislav Matzov, center, is escorted Tuesday into a Pinellas courtroom, where he faces charges in a 2008 holdup at a Blockbuster.

LARGO — A juror asked a bailiff an innocent-sounding question Tuesday, and within hours, a mistrial was declared in the case of a man accused of shooting a St. Petersburg police detective.

The retrial of Velislav Matzov will begin today. The mistrial Tuesday occurred after jurors admitted they spoke about the case among themselves before the trial was over.

"I feel quite frustrated that my instruction to the jurors about not discussing the case among themselves was not heeded," Judge Nancy Moate Ley said.

Matzov, 20, is on trial on charges of attempted murder and robbery in connection with an April 30, 2008, holdup at a Blockbuster video store at 5100 66th St. N. The detective was shot after he and other officers confronted the robbers outside the store.

Matzov's alleged accomplice, Joseph Hollings Jr., is awaiting trial. A woman who police say was the driver of their getaway car, Danielle Karlau, already has pleaded guilty to attempted felony murder and robbery charges.

Attorneys made their opening statements Tuesday morning and the Blockbuster manager described how two masked men wearing black clothes and brandishing handguns swept in to rob the store.

Then, on a lunch break, a juror asked a bailiff if it was all right for jurors to discuss the case while in the jury room. This caused immediate concern because jurors are not supposed to begin discussing a case until after testimony has concluded.

After hearing of the juror's question, Ley interviewed the jurors individually in the courtroom. The jurors said they understood they could not discuss the case outside of court, but some thought they could discuss it in the jury room. Jurors said that their fellow panelists had made only innocuous and trivial comments about the case.

Still, defense attorney Debora Moss moved for a mistrial, which Ley granted.

The judge told the jurors, "I'm sure you're all very good people who did not mean to cause that." But she added that the retrial would be "at some taxpayers' expense."

Mistrial declared in shooting of St. Petersburg cop after Blockbuster robbery 08/04/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 11:49pm]
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