A Palm Beach County juror who in January helped convict a man in the 2007 death of a 70-year-old motorist who was shot after a robbery of the Three Amigos market was sent to jail for eight days on Thursday for jury misconduct.
In a stern rebuke after a two-hour hearing, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx found that Philip Elliott violated jury rules by looking up the definition of words during the trial of Victor Salastier Diaz and then encouraging another juror to lie that other violations had occurred in hopes of overturning the verdict.
“You maligned the dignity of this court,” Marx said before ordering deputies to handcuff Elliott, 45, and take him to jail. “You showed a complete and total disregard for the judicial system.”
Elliott claimed he was trying to woo fellow juror Samantha Scalpi in a series of Facebook messages that were sent after the trial. “I had a crush on Samantha,” he said, adding that he may have been intoxicated when some of them were sent. “I said a lot of B.S. stuff.”
Scalpi was distraught after the verdict, indicating she had been bullied by other jurors to convict. “I said whatever she wanted to hear,” Elliott said.
Marx said she didn’t care about Elliott’s motives. Encouraging Scalpi to claim that jurors discussed the case during the trial, to say Elliott was friends with Marx’s husband, fellow Judge Joseph Marx, and to say that jurors had looked up information about Diaz’s co-defendants, was despicable, she said. She cleared Elliott, who works at a Palm Beach bike shop, of actually doing any of those things or of knowing her husband other than to sell a bike to him four years ago. But, she said suggesting that Scalpi falsely claim that such breaches had occurred was a serious violation of jury conduct.
Further, she said, Elliott admitted he looked up the meaning of the phrase “immediate scene,” during the trial despite repeatedly being told that jurors were barred from doing any independent research.
Elliott claimed he is dyslexic and simply wanted to understand the terms so he could weigh the evidence against Diaz.
“I don’t know if you know what the word truth means,” Marx said. “Perhaps you should look that up in your dictionary.”
Attorney Adam Farkas, who represented Elliott, said he could appeal Marx’s decision. But, he said, time is too short. By the time an appeal could be heard, Elliott would be out of jail.
Attorney Joseph Walsh, who represents Diaz, said he is weighing whether to again ask Marx to throw out the verdict. Marx has already rejected one request that the verdict be thrown out due to jury misconduct.
In his Diaz’s first trial in 2010, the jury convicted him of armed robbery and burglary charges but acquitted him of attempted murder charges and was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge, splitting 7-5 in favor of acquittal. He was retried and convicted of murder in January and sentenced to life in prison.
Diaz is one of seven men accused in the 2007 death of Samuel Salomon, a retired baker was shot and killed when one of the Three Amigos robbers tried to shoot at the suburban Boynton Beach store owner after he got into his car and chased the robbers. Salomon, of suburban Delray Beach, was out shopping with his wife when he was hit by a stray bullet.
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