Wednesday, January 8 2014 5:50 PM EST2014-01-08 22:50:22 GMT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
One of the suspects convicted in the murder-for-hire case of Ralph "Critterman" McNeil will get a new trial following an order from Judge Charles Price.
In his order, Judge Price ruled on two motions in granting Nash a new trial, the first being that the verdict in Nash's trial came from an inconsistent presentation of the evidence it also used in the previous trial of another co-defendant. The second being due to juror misconduct.
In the first motion, Judge Price found that the state tried Nash on a murder-for-hire charge and convinced the jury that Nash paid a co-defendant $9,000 to kill McNeil, not that the victim was killed during a robbery.
But the prosecution charged the co-defendant, Jeremy Riley, with the capital crime of robbery murder and at his trial put a support witness on the stand who testified that the $9,000 was never part of a murder-for-hire plot, but a robbery gone bad. The $9,000 was drug money Nash had given him for the purchase of drugs to sell.
"The State's contradictory theories of the crime at the trials of Nash and Kindall Riley, and the pleas and sentencing of Jeremy and Kindall Riley, is precisely the type of inconsistent evidence use that the doctrine of judicial estoppel seeks to prevent," Judge Price wrote. "The State has offered no reasonable explanation of why the inconsistent evidence was presented in these cases."
In the second motion, Judge Price wrote that, "the court finds that juror misconduct occurred in this case, warranting a new trial. Juror misconduct struck a fatal blow to our judiciary on the ironclad perception of a fair trial, which did not occur in this case."
The decision was based on actions by two jurors, identified only as Juror #417, who served as the foreperson, and Juror #463. Judge Price determined some of the answers the jurors provided in the selection process were untruthful.
Speaking of Juror #417 Judge Price write, "Most troubling to this Court is the fact that...this juror testified the reason she knowingly and intentionally failed to disclose information concerning her and her husband's criminal history was because she was embarrassed."
As for Juror #463, post-trial hearings found that the juror had family connections in the case including his father-in-law having been previously arrested and convicted as a co-defendant and cousin of John Riley, Sr., the father of Nash's co-defendant Jeremy Riley.
"The Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant a fair trial by a panel of impartial jurors…," the judge wrote. "This right is violated and a new trial is required when a juror deliberately deceives the court about a matter which, if fully explored, would constitute a valid basis for a challenge for cause against that juror."
The judge found that Nash, "suffered actual prejudice based upon juror misconduct," and ordered the new trial to take place on May 19, 2014. The judge set Nash's bond at $1.2 million.
Three other suspects in the case will not be affected because they pleaded guilty to their roles and did not go to trial. Those people are Nash's ex-fiance, Serena English, and two cousins, Jeremy and Kendall Riley.
Nash was convicted for hiring the Riley cousins to kill McNeil in January 2011 because McNeil was in a custody dispute with English. Authorities found McNeil's body on Pilgrim Street on January 18, 2011, a short distance from his burning pickup truck. He'd been stabbed to death.
Nash, a former doctor, previously was stripped of his license to practice medicine after confessing to faking flu shots.
Montgomery County Deputy District Attorney, Kenny Gibbs, who tried this case says he disagrees conflicting evidence was presented during the various trials and stands by the jury that was struck for Nash's case, denying any prejudice was shown by the two jurors cited.
WSFA 12 News will have more information on this story in our evening newscasts. We continue to update this story. Check back shortly for more updates.
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