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Christopher Taylor murder trial to be rescheduled after mistrial

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 by Nina Hernandez

The trial of the Austin police officer accused of murder in the 2020 shooting of Mike Ramos ended in a mistrial on Friday. Travis County Judge Dana Blazey is working with prosecutors and the defense team to determine the date for a new trial, which is expected to be announced this week.

Blazey declared a mistrial after four tumultuous days of jury selection in which more than 200 potential jurors were screened and just seven were successfully seated. The process was complicated due to the fact that 80 potential jurors were dismissed earlier in the week after the courtroom was mistakenly closed to the press and public.

A motion for mistrial filed by the defense also notes potential instances of juror intimidation or tampering. According to the motion, on May 24, a potential juror reported that an envelope had been left on their vehicle during the jury selection process.

The envelope was wrapped in a 9-by-12-inch plastic bubble wrap mailer envelope “on which a piece of paper depicting images and words was securely taped in a manner likely calculated to protect the paper from being damaged by the rain that occurred that day,” the motion states.

“The images and words depicted clearly relate to this matter and to defendant Christopher Taylor and decedent Michael Ramos. The words and images are also reasonably interpreted to be threatening and intimidating in nature,” the motion states. Similar envelopes were found on at least two other vehicles belonging to potential jurors, according to the motion. One juror disposed of the envelope in a trash can and it could not be recovered.

The defense states in the motion that “the fact that these envelopes were found on potential jurors’ vehicles caused other potential jurors to express fear and concern for their safety and the safety of their families if they were selected to serve as jurors in this case, and their fear and concern became grounds to strike those individuals for cause from being eligible to serve on the jury.”

“The facts and circumstances of these envelopes have also caused continued jury selection as scheduled in this case to become unworkable, potentially unsafe, and violative of the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial jury under the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 10 of the Texas Constitution,” the motion reads.

According to the defense, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office has reviewed all available surveillance video footage from cameras in the vicinity of the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Building, where the trial is being held.

However, no known arrests have been made in connection with the investigation nor have any suspects been identified. “The suspect or suspects appear to remain at large and are therefore capable of targeting other individuals summoned to appear as potential jurors in this case as well as the individuals who will eventually be selected as jurors in this case,” the motion reads.

In the summer of 2020, a series of protests broke out across Austin calling for justice in the shooting death of Ramos, who was shot by Taylor as he attempted to exit the parking lot of a Southeast Austin apartment complex. Video footage later showed the unarmed Ramos, who was Black and Hispanic, showing his hands and pleading with officers to put down their guns.

Late last year, a U.S. district judge denied motions to dismiss in a civil suit filed against Taylor and the city by Ramos’ mother, Brenda Ramos. The suit contends that the city and Taylor violated Ramos’ Fourth Amendment rights.

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