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Sheley testimony delayed as juror dismissed

3 alternate jurors remain for murder trial

ROCK ISLAND – A male juror in Nicholas Sheley's third murder trial was dismissed Thursday morning after another juror overheard him saying the defense didn't have a case.

Testimony in the fourth day of the trial was delayed for almost 2 hours while Judge Jeffrey O'Connor and both parties questioned the juror, whom he later dismissed for his comment, and the woman who heard him say it.

The female alternate juror who heard the man talking about the case approached a bailiff Wednesday afternoon, and as soon as court let out for the day, the bailiff told O'Connor.

During questioning Thursday morning, the woman said she thought the comment was "inappropriate," and she thought others did, too, because once the man said it, the room fell silent.

The comment, she said, was made during a conversation about why jurors were abruptly excused Wednesday afternoon. The woman said that another alternate juror, also a woman, replied that it was because the attorneys were "bickering," and they didn't want jurors to be present for that.

It was then that the man apparently said, "Without discussing any details of the case, it's all the defense has."

When he was brought in for questioning Thursday, the man told O'Connor that he didn't remember saying anything like that to anyone in particular, but that sometimes he thinks out loud and might have said something to the effect of "the defense doesn't have a case."

Under questioning from Assistant Attorney General Bill Elward, the man said that he could keep his "mind open" and his "mouth shut."

After the juror left the room, defense attorney Jeremy Karlin called for a mistrial, or, he said, at the very least the juror should be dismissed for cause.

O'Connor, then, did dismiss the juror, and one of the alternate jurors was asked to sit in his place. There are three alternates left.

Nineteen witnesses were called to testify Thursday about the Galesburg murder of Ronald Randall, 65, for which Sheley was convicted in September 2011, and to the chain of custody for the evidence from that murder and the hours that led up to it. Some of the evidence from the Galesburg murder, prosecutors say, links Sheley to the Rock Falls killings of Brock Branson, 29; his girlfriend, Kilynna Blake, 20; her 2-year-old son, Dayan; and Kenneth Ulve, 25.

They say the blue work shirt with the initials "A.J." and a pair of khaki shorts investigators found in a bedroom in the Rock Falls apartment are the same items of clothing Sheley stole from an Illinois Oil Co. employee, and then wore to kill Ronald Randall. They also say that the two Newport cigarette butts found in that bedroom have his DNA on them and were purchased at a Galesburg gas station after he killed Randall.

Sheley is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder in the the four Rock Falls deaths, and already is serving two life sentences for the Galesburg death and for the murder of Russell Reed, 93, of Sterling.

Sheley, 34, of Sterling, also is charged in the deaths of Arkansas couple Jill and Tom Estes, both 54, who were killed on June 29, 2008, in a hotel parking lot in Festus, Missouri.

After this trial is completed, Sheley will head to court there, where he could face the death penalty.

Follow Sauk Valley Media reporter Christi Warren on Twitter for live updates from the courtroom: @SeaWarren.

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