Woman charged with jury tampering
A relative of a man convicted of capital murder here last week faces a felony jury tampering charge after officials said she attempted to contact a juror during the trial.
Annie Michelle Miller, 29, of 2032 Empress Drive, Murfreesboro, Tenn., was arrested and charged Nov. 16 with jury tampering.
Sheriff Eric Clark said officials arrested Miller at the Neshoba County Courthouse on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 16, before the trial of James Walter Kelly Jr. resumed. Miller was released the following day around noon on a $20,000 bond.
Clark said Miller is a relative of the defendant in the case and sent a message to one of the jurors on Nov. 15, the trial’s opening day. Officials said Miller had also tried to contact the juror on Nov. 16, the second day of the trial, in person at the courthouse.
“The integrity of the court is important to protect,” Clark said. “We want to keep everything in order, and as soon as we figured out what had happened, we made the arrest.”
A jury found Kelly guilty of capital murder on Nov. 16 after deliberating for approximately one hour. The death penalty was not considered in the case, and a sentencing date has not been announced.
The trial began Nov. 15, and the jury was sent out to deliberate just after lunch on Nov. 16.
The prosecution called seven witnesses during the trial, including two defendants who had pleaded guilty to their parts in the case earlier this year.
Kelly was convicted in the Oct. 19, 2019, slaying of Demarcus Houston, 19, of Philadelphia, who died by suffocation, the authorities said.
Houston’s body was later discovered weighted down and anchored in 4 or 5 feet of water in a small pond at Hope.
District Attorney Steven Kilgore said Houston was dead before his body was placed in the pond.
Initially, three people were charged with capital murder in the case. Two of the three pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges. Tyrone Braxton, 24, and Joanna Brook Gilmer, 26, pleaded guilty in a plea bargain with the district attorney’s office. Braxton was sentenced to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Gilmer was sentenced to 12 years.
Houston’s family had reported him missing on Oct. 23, 2019. Acting on a tip, Clark and other law enforcement agencies drained the pond and found the body. Initially, the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations charged nine people after the body was found on Feb. 14, 2020.