Judge declares mistrial in E.C. murder trial

2013-05-06T19:38:00Z 2013-05-06T23:25:16Z Judge declares mistrial in E.C. murder trialSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Learning a juror had recognized a victim's son as a co-worker, Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell on Monday declared a mistrial in the murder trial of an East Chicago man accused of shooting the man's father.

Kevin Strong, one of two men accused of shootings that left two men dead in separate incidents the same day, stood trial last week facing five criminal counts in connection with the shooting of Jose Melendez, of East Chicago, in July 2010.

Strong, 23, had been accused by co-defendant Jeremy Brazill of shooting Melendez when Melendez refused to turn over his van to the men.

Jurors on Friday reached a verdict on three of the five counts and had been expected to resume deliberating on the remaining two Monday morning.

Instead, Boswell was informed by a juror that he recognized a son of Melendez as a co-worker, prompting the mistrial as sought by the defense. Members of the Melendez family have been attending the trial daily.

Strong will be retried on all five counts Nov. 4 with the prior verdicts remaining sealed as ordered by the judge Friday.

Defense attorney Scott King also sought Strong be released from custody and placed on electronic monitoring, which Boswell approved.

King had conceded Strong to be a drug dealer but questioned Brazill's credibility in accusing Strong of being a killer.

Gang culture in East Chicago had played a key role in Strong's trial, with the state arguing the the shootings involved practices aligned with gang culture.

The teardrop tattoo on Strong's face is a symbol of gang culture, signifying a killing, prosecutors said.

In a plea deal with prosecutors, Brazill, 22, has admitted to killing the second man, gang member Cordell Allen, alleging Strong asked him to shoot Allen for "snitching" to police.

Strong and Brazill, who is awaiting sentencing, are each admitted members of rival East Chicago gangs.

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