Former Eatonville mayor Anthony Grant’s defense attorney asked a judge for a new trial Tuesday in his voting-fraud case, in part because one of the jurors may have not been able to hear some of the proceedings.
Grant was found guilty May 19 of felony election violation, voting fraud, and misdemeanor absentee-voting violation. When a court official tried to poll the jury — a routine proceeding asking every juror in open court if the verdict that was just read is the one he or she chose — one juror sitting in the courtroom did not respond.
Another juror said that the juror’s hearing aid was not working properly at that moment, so she could not hear them.
Grant’s lawyer, Gary Dorst, filed a motion May 24 asking for a new trial. But that would require evidence that the juror indeed could not hear the evidence, arguments, and deliberations.
In this case, the only evidence Dorst had was what happened in court after the jury delivered its verdict. Without speaking with the juror, he said, he would have no way of knowing how much of the trial she could or could not hear.
But Florida case law does not allow attorneys to interview jurors about a verdict without evidence that there are legal grounds to challenge the verdict or proof of jury misconduct, Circuit Judge Keith Carsten said in court Tuesday, citing case law.
It comes down to one of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure: “If no reason is found to believe that the verdict may be subject to challenge, the court shall enter its order denying permission to interview.”
Dorst filed another motion Monday, arguing that the jury’s guilty verdict on the voting fraud charge contradicts the weight of the evidence.
Grant, who was sent to the Orange County Jail after the guilty verdict, sat quietly in his navy blue jail-issued clothing during the hearing, listening to the proceedings. He did not speak.
Jurors last month also convicted former campaign aide Mia Nowells of coercing a voter, acquitting her of three other charges she faced. They found another campaign aide, James Randolph, not guilty.
Grant was Eatonville’s mayor from 1994 to 2009.
He ran again in 2015 against Bruce Mount, getting 15 fewer votes at the polls but winning in absentee votes, getting 196 to Mount’s 69. Mount sued, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched an investigation that ended in Grant’s arrest.