HATTIESBURG — Lawyers for independent mayoral candidate Dave Ware are asking specially appointed Judge William Coleman to uphold a verdict that would have may him mayor of Hattiesburg.
A hearing in the case is set for Thursday morning.
The Ware motion, filed Friday, takes Coleman to task for requiring the jurors to vote in open court, the Hattiesburg American reports. The motion states that it was sufficient that all 12 of them agreed that 9-3 was the jury’s verdict after more than six hours of deliberation.
Jurors initially voted 9-3 to overturn Democratic incumbent Mayor Johnny DuPree’s 37-vote victory. But when the judge polled the jury in open court, the vote tally changed to 8-4 in Ware’s favor, a hung jury under Mississippi rules.
“It was reversible error for the trial court to require the jurors to vote in open court,” the Ware motion reads. “It was further error not to affirm the verdict properly reached, particularly when it became obvious, through a note from the jury, that the only reason for the ‘changed’ vote was fear of ‘retaliation.'”
If Coleman chooses not to affirm the verdict, Ware’s motion requests either a directed verdict from the judge or a new special election.
The motion states Ware is entitled to a directed verdict because of the “unrefuted factual record” demonstrated at the trial that enough illegal votes were cast in DuPree’s favor to give Ware the election.
“Ware has proven with mathematical certainty that more than 37 votes for DuPree were illegal and must be excluded from the certified totals,” the motion reads, citing the 68 jail and elderly ballots solicited by the mayor’s wife, Johniece DuPree, as well as 375 illegally cast absentee ballots.
The motion also states that evidence in the trial demonstrated “a reasonable inference of fraud” or at least “a hint of unseemliness” that calls into question the validity of the election results, compelling a special election if Coleman refuses to rule in Ware’s favor regarding the jury verdict or directed verdict.