An armed robbery trial in which a city councilman’s son testified as a key witness ended in a mistrial Friday after three jurors had to be excused from duty one day into the trial.
In the case, defendant Keenan Montgomery is accused of robbing two Columbus hotels within the span of 48 hours in June 2014.
Montgomery was arrested on two counts of armed robbery in summer 2014 — one for allegedly robbing the Ramada Hotel on Highway 45 North on June 23, 2014 and one for allegedly robbing the Fairfield Mariott on Sixth Street North on June 24, 2014.
Lack of jurors leads to mistrial
One of the jurors had to be excused for a medical issue, and two others recognized Montgomery’s mother and could not be impartial in the case, said Montgomery’s attorney, public defender Carrie Jourdan.
Jourdan said she didn’t fault anyone, certainly not the jurors who did not realize they knew Montgomery’s family at first because Montgomery has a different last name than his parents.
“This was no one’s fault,” she said. “And, of course, it’s disappointing.”
District Attorney Scott Colom agreed the mistrial is frustrating but that, in this case, it couldn’t be helped.
“It’s frustrating to get so far in a trial and for someone to realize that they’ve got a conflict that would make it difficult for them to be impartial,” he said. “To the extent possible, we just hope people can work out their conflicts at the beginning so we don’t have to waste time or resources on the trial. People are human. I understand. I don’t think anybody did anything on purpose that they shouldn’t.”
Part of the problem, he added, was not as many people answered jury summons as usual.
The clerk at one of the hotels was Ward 2 City Councilman Joseph Mickens’ son, Joseph Mickens, Jr.
Mickens took the stand Wednesday and testified that he worked as a night clerk at the Ramada Inn on Highway 45 North on the morning of June 23, 2014, when he said a young black male wearing dark clothes, sunglasses and a backpack came into the inn, pointed a gun at him and made him take money out of the cash register in the hotel lobby.
Mickens identified Montgomery as the man who robbed him.
Mickens said he gave the suspect who robbed him about $500 from the cash register before the suspect asked him to show him where the safe was. Mickens took the suspect into the back room to show him the safe but told him he didn’t know the combination. The suspect then made Mickens lie on the ground and warned him not to call the police, Mickens said. Mickens said the suspect claimed he had a police scanner and would know if the police were called.
“He pointed a gun at my head and said, ‘Or I can just handle this right now,'” Mickens said
But Jourdan pointed out that not everything Mickens testified to had been included in his initial statement to police, such as the suspect threatening to “handle this right now.”
Mickens told her he hadn’t remembered the quote when talking to police.
“Are you trying to tell me your memory is better now than it was two years ago,” Jourdan asked during Mickens’ testimony.
The jury also heard from Tiffany Young, a clerk at the Fairfield Mariott, who testified that Montgomery robbed her at gunpoint two nights after Mickens reported being robbed.
Both Mickens and Young testified that they did not collude to accuse Montgomery of the robberies.