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Past aside, potential juror picked to serve

The jury picked to hear a first-degree murder case last month had one member with an unusual background: She previously had been convicted of prostitution.

The matter came up during the jury selection process. When potential jurors were asked if they had ever been at a trial, the woman said she had attended the case of Lawrence Singleton, who was convicted of murdering Roxanne Hayes, a Tampa prostitute. Hayes, the woman said, had been a friend of hers.

Later, when jurors were asked if they had ever been convicted of any crimes, she allowed that she had once been on the streets, and had been convicted of prostitution.

That misdemeanor was not enough to keep her from serving, and she was ultimately selected for the jury that convicted Isaac Baker of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Notably, it was only by luck of the draw that she did not end up in another courtroom that day, where attorneys were picking a panel to hear the case of Sam Smithers. He was ultimately convicted of murdering two Hillsborough Avenue prostitutes.

PROSECUTORS ON PATROL: One driver apparently unleashed his road rage on the wrong Hillsborough victim recently.

Justin Michael Birmingham was headed south on Dale Mabry Highway near Interstate 275 last month when he became irate at a motorist ahead of him who, he told police, had failed to use his blinker.

At Kennedy Boulevard, Birmingham pulled up alongside the vehicle and rolled down his window. The Lutz resident then pointed a .22-caliber pistol at the driver and yelled, "I'll smoke your a--," according to the police report.

The victim didn't have a gun. But he drew something more potent from his pocket: a badge from the State Attorney's Office.

Assistant Prosecutor Curtis Lee Allen flashed his credentials and ordered Birmingham, 28, to pull over. He complied, and Allen took the gun and called 911.

Allen didn't want to talk with the case pending. He did say he wasn't amused.

"Of course I was concerned for my safety, as anyne would be who had a gun pulled on him," he said.

Birmingham disputes the police account. "What I did, I did in self-defense, irrespective of what the police reports say," he said.

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And in another case, a woman was sentenced to 60 days in jail after investigators say she stole about $50 from a purse in a women's bathroom Dec. 14.

So what's so notable about that? Well, the bathroom was at the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office, and the victim was prosecutor Melanie Bossie, who was in a stall and said she could see some suspicious activity occurring through a space in the stall door.

Starleater Simmons pleaded guilty to petty theft.