A judge in Pennsylvania had to dismiss the jury members after it was revealed that they could not be impartial in a case against a man who was open carrying a gun.
Although the handgun was never used or even touched or mentioned in the incident, an overwhelming number of jury members stated that the mere presence of the gun on the man’s hip made them anxious and unable to impartially review the case.
“I’m going to have to dismiss you,” the judge told the members.
The case involves James Evan Ferry, who is a U.S. Special Forces veteran. Ferry suffered a traumatic brain injury while in service, but he was still able to legally open carry a handgun.
The incident began when Ferry walked into a health club legally carrying a handgun on one hip and two magazines on the other. Ferry was upset because he was told he could not continue his contract at the health club.
Once inside, Ferry confronted a desk employee, glaring at her harshly and making her uncomfortable. He even cursed at her when she asked him about the weather outside. The woman, Jill Zagora, said she was “pretty scared” by his behavior, and the visible presence of the handgun.
Manager Carie Riley approached him and offered to speak with him in her office. When they went inside, he shut the door behind him. When she told him again that his contract could not be voided, he asked, “What would happen if there was an incident.” He suggested that he would return to the club repeatedly “to make life uncomfortable to its members, calling them vulgar names and using obscenities, police said.
Riley said she felt “cornered and just extremely scared for my safety. I could see how angry he was and I just didn’t know how he would react,” she testified at the preliminary hearing.
Fears were heightened at this time also because it was 2 weeks after the Sandy Hook shootings. After the police arrived they took possession of Ferry’s handgun for their safety and in the process of patting him down found a digital recorder in his pocket.
It was later found that Ferry had been recording his conversation with the health club employees without their knowledge and this is against state law. Witnesses in the case will testify that Ferry has short term memory loss and so he always carries the recorder around with him so he will remember things.
The most serious charge he faces is a felony count of interception of wire, electronic or oral communications, stemming from his recording of a conversation with the club manager without her knowledge. The other counts of disorderly conduct, harassment and terroristic threats are all misdemeanors.
Mahon said he had to raise two factors to potential jurors – the gun and brain injury. When he asked whether the fact that Ferry was carrying a gun would affect their impartiality, the room erupted with panel members standing to signal their feelings.
In this public display of extreme anxiety over firearms, one of the potential jurors stood up and said that although he was a law enforcement officer he had such strong feelings against firearms in public he could not fairly be a juror on the case, even though he should know it IS legal to open carry in PA.
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