FLORIDA: Jury Bias Investigated Over Gay Man Convicted Of DUI Manslaughter

A Broward County jury yesterday found a gay man guilty of DUI manslaughter for a 2010 crash that killed a member of the Miami Heat dance team. However the judge let the man go home with his partner after the verdict while a mistrial motion is considered over possible anti-gay bias on the part of the jury.

Mario Careaga, 46, faces 15 years in prison for driving drunk and crashing into the victim, 22, who had stopped her motorcycle on a gore along East Sunrise Boulevard at 9:38 p.m. on Sept. 10, 2010. Careaga was immediately handcuffed after the verdict was read, and members of the victim’s family sobbed in the gallery. Careaga is gay, a fact the jury became aware of because one of the witnesses in the trial was Ray Stapleton, Careaga’s partner of more than 20 years. Stapleton testified last week. Careaga took the stand on Monday. During Careaga’s testimony, one juror was accused of mocking the defendant’s voice after he asked for water. The same juror was accused of using an expletive to describe Bogenschutz. The juror denied both accusations, saying the only thing he did while Careaga was testifying was clear his throat. The courtroom was filled with friends, family and supporters of Careaga on one side and the family of the victim on the other. Both sides were quiet during the questioning of the jurors. None of the jurors confirmed the alternate’s claims, but Holmes decided to hold off on formally entering the jury’s verdict until Thursday morning, after she holds a hearing on the defense’s motion for a mistrial.

Careaga’s post-crash blood alcohol level was 0.24, three times the legal limit. His lawyer disputed that result, noting that witnesses reported that Careaga displayed no outward signs of drunkenness. The lawyer also pointed to surveillance video showing Careaga walking with no difficulty shortly before the accident. The high profile case has been hotly followed by South Florida news media, probably because the victim was a beautiful young girl. (Tipped by JMG reader John)