Comments from Abilene police chief cause mistrial in murder case for possibly tainting jury pool

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Comments from Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge caused a mistrial for an Abilene man accused of murder because they may have tainted the jury pool. 

The murder trial for Charles Newman, 37, ended Tuesday morning and has been rescheduled for October, due to comments made in front of all potential jurors Monday.

A KTAB and KRBC crew member was in the room when the comments were made. He said Chief Standridge was in the jury pool to potentially hear one of 6 trials scheduled to start that day.

Court clerks were sorting the jurors between the cases, and it was taking awhile, so they were trying to entertain everyone during the wait.

When they ran out of topics to discuss, Chief Standridge got up and addressed the room, talking about how crime is on the decline now, compared to decades ago. He then stated that drugs are the biggest problem in the Abilene community, and they often lead to other crimes, such as murder. 

He also told everyone that jurors have a huge responsibility in response to crime and that anyone summoned has a duty to show up. 

No officials involved in in the trial have confirmed which of Chief Standridge’s comments led to the mistrial declaration, but City Manager Robert Hanna released a statement that reads in part, “based on what Stan told me his comments were innocent, and his comments did not deal with any specific case.”

Hanna’s statement goes on to say, “I think Chief Standridge learned a good lesson in that when called upon to act as a juror, he is acting as a private citizen and not the Chief of Police.”

Chief Standridge will not be facing any disciplinary action in response to the mistrial declaration, according to Hanna. 

The full statement from Chief Standridge regarding what happened in the jury room is as follows:

On September 25, I received notice of Jury Duty.  I arrived with several hundred other citizens.  Judge Paul Rotenberry explained the importance of our task, and then court clerks worked hard to identify potential juror pools  While we were waiting, I also thanked our citizens for their responsiveness to jury duty.  It has been alleged that I encouraged them to vote in a certain manner, which is absolutely untrue.  Instead, I spoke for about 3-4 minutes about overall crime issues.  No one discussed the specific cases, as we did not even know what they were at the time.  

I have a heart for this city and our citizens.  I wanted to thank them, and encourage them that crime is not winning in our city.  However, I should not have addressed them in this forum, for which I apologize.  I made an honest mistake that I own and that I regret. 

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