Confusion on jury vote leads to mistrial in mayoral election lawsuit

HATTIESBURG — After seven days of court proceedings surrounding a lawsuit contesting the results of the June 4 Hattiesburg mayor’s election, it all ended yesterday in a mistrial and Johnny DuPree remains the city’s top executive.

When the jury first returned a verdict, only eight jurors could find for Dave Ware, while four backed DuPree’s case. Judge William F. Coleman then ordered the jury to continue deliberating, saying the community needed a final answer to the election.

The Hattiesburg American reports after more deliberation, jurors returned a 9-3 vote in Ware’s favor but when Coleman polled the panel twice, only eight agreed in open court.

The discrepancy between the jury room and the courtroom caused a stir among attorneys and the audience. Attorneys for DuPree moved for a mistrial, while Ware’s attorneys asked for more time for the jury to deliberate.

Coleman then polled the jurors in private and the same 8-4 verdict was reached.

DuPree’s attorneys moved for a mistrial, which Coleman granted.

Ware’s attorneys asked the judge to consider a motion for him to declare a special election, which Coleman said he would hear on Friday in Forrest County Circuit Court.

Ware contested the election results after DuPree, the incumbent, was certified the winner with a 37-vote lead. Ware contends that the absentee ballots had problems ranging from allegedly improper signatures to ballots that don’t state which election the vote is for.

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