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Mistrial Declared After Puzzled Juror Brings Dictionary To Court

July 1, 1989

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A judge declared a mistrial in a murder case after learning that the jury foreman had brought a dictionary into the deliberations so jurors could look up words the judge used in his instructions.

″It was highly improper,″ David N. Cooper, attorney for defendant Moses Davison, said Friday. ″They were sitting in the jury room using a dictionary to determine the guilt or innocence of my client.″

Under questioning by Superior Court Judge Dominic Cresto, Robert Forest, a Pawtucket teacher who was the jury foreman, admitted he brought a dictionary with him Thursday.

One of the words he said jurors looked up was ″malice,″ defined by the Random House Dictionary of the English Language as a ″desire to inflict injury or suffering on another, especially when based on deep-seated meanness.″

The law, however, defines malice differently. Black’s Law Dictionary says malice is ″not necessarily personal hate or ill will, but it is that state of mind which is reckless of the law and of the legal rights of the citizen.″

Cooper said that if the jurors wanted the judge to repeat the legal definition of malice, all they had to do was ask.

The mistrial Friday allows the prosecution to bring Davison, 39, a construction worker from Houston, to trial again in the slaying of Carl Williams, also a construction worker from Texas.

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