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Curiosity With Commode Kills The Case

February 24, 1989

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) _ A judge declared a mistrial in a drug trial when three jurors made an unauthorized visit to the alleged crime scene to see how long it took a toilet to flush.

This particular privy was supposed to be private.

″I’m hard pressed not to use the analogy, flushed down the toilet,″ Superior Judge Robert Bradley said in declaring the mistrial Tuesday in the case against Nelson Cortez, of Oxnard.

The jury foreman told the judge the panelists visited an apartment rented by co-defendant Joel Ruvalcaba to test the truth of Cortez’ testimony.

Cortez had testified he was awakened by the sound of a toilet flushing on Jan. 14, 1988, went into the bathroom and was immediately arrested by waiting police after officers found a bag of cocaine in the bowl.

Cortez claimed he didn’t know how the drug got in the toilet.

Ruvalcaba, meanwhile, was arrested in the living room.

Two jurors tried flushing their own toilets at home to see if Cortez would have had enough time to get up, go to the bathroom and get arrested all in the flush of a toilet.

Not satisfied with the home experiments, three jurors went to the apartment building on a lunch break last week, posed as prospective renters to gain access to Ruvalcaba’s former apartment and timed the toilet flush.

The judge said he had to declare the mistrial because the apartment visit was ″serious misconduct.″ Jurors had been told not to visit the crime scene.

The panel was allowed to continue to deliberate the fate of Ruvalcaba.

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