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Florida juror checking phone results in murder trial being tossed

Posted at 6:44 AM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 06:44:20-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The murder trial of a former Florida sheriff's deputy charged with killing his son-in-law was declared a mistrial after a juror looked at his cellphone during closing arguments.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey D. Gillen halted the trial of Carlton Nebergall Jr. on Tuesday, not long before it was expected to go to the jury, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Defense attorney Michael Salnick asked for the mistrial, telling the Post the juror had already been admonished for sleeping during testimony. No alternates remained to replace him. Prosecutors declined comment. The trial had lasted six days.

Salnick said he didn’t know what the juror was doing on the cellphone but said that the act “so absolutely subverted the administration of justice that there was no way I could go further."

Nebergall, 63, is charged with first-degree murder for the 2018 shooting of his son-in-law, Jacob Lodge, in the driveway of Nebergall's Palm Beach County home. Prosecutors say Nebergall hated Lodge and had come out of his home with a handgun. They say he fired a shot in the air, which caused Lodge to get out of his car. They say Nebergall then shot him in the head.

Nebergall testified he shot Lodge in self-defense, believing Lodge was holding a gun. Lodge was holding his glasses. Lodge had a long criminal history, including accusations of robbery and battery and a 2017 guilty plea for stealing from Nebergall.

No retrial date has been set.