MOULTRIE, Ga. — A juror in a 2017 Colquitt County murder trial has been accused of misleading the court during the jury selection process.
Tambrest Keys-Jones, who was on the jury that deadlocked in the trial of Jaquan Willis, was charged Feb. 20 with one count of perjury.
On Wednesday the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that Keys-Jones “failed to disclose information” during jury selection.
The jury vote in Willis’ trial was 11 in favor of conviction on a murder count with one voting for acquittal. Juries in criminal trials must reach a unanimous verdict in order to convict or acquit a defendant.
Jurors did reach a unanimous decision on less-serious charges including aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, but the mistrial brought about by the hung jury on the murder charge wiped out that decision.
After a trial of three and a half days in June 2017, jurors deliberated about five hours over two days before Superior Court Judge Brian McDaniel decided the 11-1 deadlock on the murder charge couldn’t be resolved.
The GBI launched the investigation based on a request from District Attorney Brad Shealy made in January 2018, the agency said. After reviewing trial transcripts when they became available the GBI took arrest warrants in the case.
Keys-Jones, 26, who now lives in Albany, turned herself in on Feb. 20 and was released on the same day as her arrest on a $1,000 property bond, according to Colquitt County Jail records. A conviction on the perjury charge carries a minimum of one year in jail and a maximum sentence of 10 years, and a fine of up to $1,000.
In an email response on Wednesday Shealy said that he does not know whether Keys-Jones was the holdout juror on the murder charge. He said he could not discuss the information she is accused of withholding from the court because the case is pending.
Prosecutors hope to schedule Willis’ re-trial some time in the first half of the year if there is not a negotiated plea in the case, Shealy said.
Willis was 16 at the time he was accused of fatally shooting 33-year-old Fatisha Clark, in March 2016. She was at a Moultrie park with two of her children. Multiple shots were fired toward the park that Sunday afternoon. Clark, the only person injured during the shooting, was struck in the abdomen and died later at Colquitt Regional Medical Center.
Earlier in the afternoon prior to the shooting there was a dispute involving teen-agers at another location in Northwest Moultrie. Some of them later went to the Ryce Community Center park where an adult arranged one-on-one fights involving four boys.
During testimony at the trial that occurred the week of June 9, 2017, witnesses said that two boys involved in the fighting left the park in a car with Willis and two other people. Some six shots were fired from the car, and witnesses identified Willis as the person who fired the gun.
A Colquitt County Grand Jury re-indicted Willis in September 2017 on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. He remains in jail.