ROCKVILLE – The jury had spent almost seven hours over two days deliberating in a police brutality trial when the handwritten note arrived in Judge Michael D. Mason’s chambers in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
“We are a hung jury,” the jury foreman wrote on the morning of Aug. 29. “Any further deliberations will not change the outcome. We have done our due diligence as jurors.”
Mason soon declared a mistrial in George Nelums’ $1.5 million lawsuit against two Montgomery County police officers he alleges repeatedly used a Taser on him and then falsely arrested him in February 2012.
Following a hearing last week, a new trial was scheduled for late February, according to court records.
Nelums alleged police were already at the scene when he arrived at a neighbor’s Silver Spring apartment to check on a tenant.
The officers attacked him “without provocation or justification,” according to Nelums’ amended complaint.
Defense lawyers for the officers countered that Nelums was checking on a friend who was being arrested for “drug-related offenses,” according to court documents, and that he “obstructed and hindered” the officers, resisted arrest and assaulted the officers. They said Nelums was the aggressor and that police had probable cause to subdue and arrest him.
Nelums, then 26, was charged with obstructing and hindering a police investigation, resisting arrest and two counts of assault; however, the charges were dropped in May 2012, court records show.
Nelums’ lawsuit, filed in December 2012, seeks compensatory and punitive damages for assault, battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, violation of rights and malicious prosecution. The Montgomery County Police Department, originally a defendant in the case, was dismissed in March 2013.
Judge Terrence J. McGann presided over the trial when it began Aug. 25. Two officers had been dismissed during the trial, leaving jurors to decide whether officers Cory Brodzinski and Jeffrey Rea were liable when deliberations began Aug. 28.
The jury foreman sent a note to McGann at 1:45 p.m. that afternoon.
“We have discussed and read law pertaining to each question and have voted. The vote was not unanimous,” the note reads. “Please instruct us how to move forward.”
Four hours later, the foreman sent another note to the judge.
“What are the jurors’ rights relative to disagreeing/agreeing in this case,” the note reads. “After 6½ hours of deliberation, we continue to disagree. The only way for concensus [sic] is coercion.”
The jurors returned the following morning, when the foreman told Mason they were a hung jury. The jurors also told the judge they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict as to any of the counts before them.
David A. Schiller, a Rockville solo practitioner representing Nelums, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Charles I. Frederick, an associate county attorney representing the police officers, also did not respond to a request for comment.
The case is George Nelums v. Officer Cory Brodzinksi, et al., 371576V.