Fort Worth

Assault of juror outside Tarrant County Courthouse leads to mistrial

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A mistrial was declared Tuesday in a criminal trial after a juror was assaulted outside the Tim Curry Justice Center, leaving her unable to serve.

The woman had been selected Monday to serve as one of six jurors in the trial of Bill Aron Dudley Jr., 34 of Burleson, who is charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon, a Class A misdemeanor.

Prosecutor John Newbern said testimony was to resume at 9 a.m. but was delayed because the juror, described as a woman in her mid-20s, had not shown up.

“The judge investigated and we later found out that the female juror had been assaulted outside the courthouse by a homeless person,” Newbern said.

When the juror arrived, she was brought into the courtroom and asked by County Criminal Court No. 3 Judge Bob McCoy if she was OK to move forward in the trial.

“She was clearly distraught and was crying,” Newbern said. “The judge went ahead and granted a mistrial.”

Sgt. Marc Povero, a Fort Worth police spokesman, said the incident occurred near the Subway restaurant at 100 Taylor St., across from the courthouse. According to the police report, Povero said, the woman was walking when she was struck in the back of the neck.

She chased the suspect across the street and got the attention of some Tarrant County deputies, who detained the suspect, Povero said. He said that Fort Worth officers identified and interviewed the suspect but that he was not arrested “because it didn’t rise to the level of a felony.”

“Officers can only make a custodial arrest if it is a misdemeanor that happened within their view,” Povero said. “Because no law enforcement officer actually witnessed the assault, officers are not able, by law, to make a custodial arrest.”

Povero said, however, there was a witness in the alleged assault. He said the case will be forwarded to a central division investigator, who will determine if a citation for assault by contact should be issued or an arrest warrant for assault with bodily injury.

The incident caused concern among employees at the courthouse.

An email from a Tarrant County bailiff warned others about the juror’s assault and identified the suspect in the attack as a 31-year-old Fort Worth man with a long criminal history.

The Star-Telegram is not identifying the suspect because he has not been arrested in connection with Tuesday morning’s assault.

Tarrant County court records show the suspect has 16 misdemeanor convictions dating to 2003 for crimes including resisting arrest, criminal mischief, terrorist threat, escape and criminal trespassing. He also has felony convictions of unauthorized use of a vehicle and burglary of a building, records show.

The bailiff’s email, a copy of which was obtained by the Star-Telegram, warned others to use extreme caution if they encounter the man.

In June, Clarence Vielle, 25, was stabbed after a dispute broke out among people on the second-level breezeway at the justice center, a popular area for transients at night. Police arrested Billy Gene Dowdy Jr., 36, in connection with the stabbing.

Court records show that Dowdy, 36, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon Monday in exchange for a two-year prison sentence.

Samantha Jordan, a spokeswoman with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said the number of homeless people congregating around the courthouse has steadily increased this year.

“The safety of jurors, witnesses and our employees is always a concern,” Jordan said. “An incident like this certainly is a cause for heightened concern and there will be ongoing discussions with all the agencies involved in the security of this area.”

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd