ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County deputy has been released from his Markeith Loyd trial duties after a conversation he had caused an issue with a juror, according to the Sheriff's Office.
A juror on Monday gave a note to Judge Leticia Marques indicating that she was concerned about a conversation she overheard Sunday afternoon at the hotel where the sequestered jury is being held.
Alternate juror 1206 said juror 261 was asking a deputy about gun laws, and she overheard him mentioning something about a person leaving a fight and then returning with a firearm to continue the confrontation.
The woman said she only heard bits and pieces of the conversation, but it left her feeling as if it could affect her ability to be unbiased because the jury heard testimony about Sade Dixon retrieving a gun when Loyd came to her home on Dec. 13, 2016.
“I’m just saying I don’t think I could be 100% impartial. I could try but I think a little piece would question the getting the gun," juror 1206 said.
Loyd is accused of fatally shooting Dixon, who was his pregnant ex-girlfriend, during that argument.
Juror 1206 was ultimately dismissed.
Juror 261 was questioned about the incident as well, and she told Marques she recently applied for a concealed carry permit, so she asked the deputy about stand your ground and other gun laws.
"He was saying that if you're in a situation, you're fine. If you leave that situation because you feel unsafe, to get a firearm, and then put yourself back into that situation where you feel unsafe then that doesn't qualify as stand your ground or whatever the homestead one is because you already got yourself out of that dangerous situation," juror 261 said.
She and another juror who overheard that conversation were not dismissed.
Marques reminded members of the jury that she is the only one who should be advising them on the law.
Officials with the Orange County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that the deputy involved is no longer working the Loyd trial.
"We are aware that a juror was dismissed after telling the judge that she overheard a conversation between another juror and a Deputy. OCSO is investigating the actions of the deputy involved. In the meantime, the chain of command has reminded all Court Security Deputies about the guidelines in place for sequestered juries. In particular:
"All deputies are to maintain a professional attitude at all times while in the presence of the jury including but not limited to, not discussing this case or any other case or subject that is the same or similar to this case or any trial testimony, or law, or any law enforcement function or procedure.
"They were also told that if a juror attempts to engage them in any type of communication described above, they are to politely direct the conversation to a non-prohibited topic and immediately notify a supervisor of the occurrence," the Orange County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.
On Tuesday, a juror brought up another issue involving a deputy. A juror asked a deputy if they would also be the jury for Loyd's second trial, during which he'll face charges related to the death of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton.
The deputy said a new jury would be chosen for that trial.
No jurors were dismissed as a result of that conversation but Marques did remind them that they should only ask her any legal questions they might have.
The defense rested its case on Tuesday. Closing arguments will begin Wednesday morning.