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Judge declares mistrial after jurur knew too much

A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in a personal injury suit against a driver who collided with an off-duty Grand Forks County deputy and fled the crash scene.

Judge Laurie Fontaine of state District Court said a juror made an unprompted comment about the case in front of other jurors, tainting the pool.

"It was totally an issue of a juror that had a bit of information about the case," Fontaine said.

A jury was selected Monday, but because of what was said, attorneys on both sides agreed to have a mistrial declared rather than have a possible appeal issue down the road, the judge said.

Not wanting to risk tainting future jury pools, Fontaine would not tell the Herald what the juror said.

In July 2006, Deputy Chris Hutton was riding a motorcycle when he collided with a vehicle driven by Clay Moore near the intersection of Columbia Road and 19th Avenue South in Grand Forks. Hutton's right foot was amputated less than two weeks after the crash.

Moore pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving an injury and was sentenced in September 2007 to a year in jail.

Hutton, who has returned to work at the sheriff's department, filed the suit against Moore in March 2008.

Fontaine, who is based in Pembina County (N.D.), took the case after local judges were recused.

A new trial is set to start August 10 in Grand Forks.