by: Ken Lemon Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A woman said she reported for jury duty and left the Mecklenburg County Courthouse fearing for her safety because a suspect and his family tried to bribe her.
Kia Newberry said she knew the defendant in the case. He lived in her neighborhood and knew where she lived.
She is angry that she wasn't removed from the jury pool and just after the start of jury selection.
Her worst fears came true.
"All I was doing was try to do the right thing,” Newberry said. “Now here I am, in a mess."
Newberry said the system failed her when she showed up for jury duty last week and learned that she was being considered as a panelist in the trial of Wesley Westbrook, a man charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and several drug charges.
"I stood up in court day one and told everybody that I knew him," Newberry said.
Normally, courts excuse potential jurors who know the defendant, but Newberry said the judge told her she had to stay on, minutes later as she sat in the jury pool.
"He messaged me, in court,” Newberry said.
"Wow, could have saved my life," the message read.
She said at recess, his cousin called her trying to get her to stay on and push for a not-guilty verdict.
The next day, the defendant knocked on her door.
He offered her $500 to stay on as a juror.
She was scared.
"I told him there was nothing that I could do,” Newberry said. “I had to tell the truth."
She went to a bailiff and the next day, the case was declared a mistrial. Westbrook was charged with bribery and harassing a juror.
The mother of three said now a convicted felon facing even more charges believes she could have saved him. She worries he or someone he knows may come after her.
"I couldn't believe it. I was surprised," she said.
Newberry said she is trying to find a new home.
The district attorney’s office said the case is still pending and they can't talk about it.
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