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Wayne County Judge’s ad-lib erases verdict, long sentence in gun case

The Associated Press
Wayne County Judge Qiana Lillard reviews juvenile life sentences at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit in this October 11, 2016, file photo.

Detroit – A man sent to prison for 14 years for gun crimes will get a new trial after the Michigan Supreme Court said a judge coerced the jury into a verdict.

After just 75 minutes of deliberations, jurors said they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision. Wayne County Judge Qiana Lillard wasn’t pleased, saying, “Well, that’s not the way it works.”

She sent jurors to lunch and told them to return with “clear heads.” She said she wanted to be alerted if anyone refused to “participate in the process.” Harold Walker was convicted 90 minutes after lunch.

In a recent 5-2 opinion, the Supreme Court says the judge “crossed the line from appropriately encouraging deliberation to being unduly coercive.”

Justice Brian Zahra, a former trial judge, disagreed. He says Lillard was simply telling jurors that they couldn’t give up after 75 minutes.