A former juror in Victor Salastier Diaz’s murder trial pleaded not guilty early Wednesday to contempt of court charges stemming from alleged conduct that could win Diaz a new trial in the death of a motorist.
Philip Eliot also received legal help to fight the charges against him, as Circuit judge Krista Marx appointed a defense attorney to represent him in the case sparked by Facebook messages between Eliot and another juror after the trial.
In them, Eliot, who works at a bike shop on Palm Beach, tells Samantha Scalpi, a juror who previously made claims she was bullied, that the judge and her husband, Circuit Judge Joseph Marx, are customers. Eliot never mentioned the connection before he was selected as a juror or at any point during the trial.
Asked how well he knew the Marxes, Eliot replied: “Well enough to call her husband immediately after the trial.”
Eliot told Scalpi in the messages that because of this relationship, he believed Marx “went soft” on him when she interviewed him after the trial on allegations that he looked up words pertaining to the case during the jury’s deliberations.
The next hearing in Eliot’s case is May 26. If convicted, he could face up to five months and 29 days in jail.
Eliot and other jurors in Janury convicted Diaz of murder in the death of Samuel Salomon, a 70-year-old retired Kosher baker who was driving home from Hanukah shopping when he got caught in the crossfire of a group of robbers that had just fled the Three Amigos Grocery and check cashing store in Boynton Beach.
One of the assailants was trying to shoot at store owner Sian Kiat Koh, who had got into his car and chased the robbers in hopes of recovering the money they stole.
Based on the jury’s conviction, Marx sentenced Diaz to life in prison. His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Joseph Walsh, has now asked for a new trial based on Eliot’s claims.