SANTA ANA – The five women who had served as jurors on a Newport Beach murder trial were led into the courtroom, one by one on Thursday, so the judge could ask them some unusual questions.
“Did you visit any type of beauty salon during the trial, around Mother’s Day?” Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett wanted to know.
The judge had removed his robe and sat in a chair near the jury box, so the women wouldn’t feel like they were being interrogated.
“Do you do your nails yourself?” he asked. “I apologize for asking this, how old are you?”
In his third trial for the same crime, former Death Row inmate James Andrew Melton was convicted in May of first-degree murder for the 1981 killing of Anthony DeSousa in Newport Beach.
Melton, 65, was supposed to be sentenced to life in prison without parole this month, but his case has now hit a snag. It was revealed that an alternate juror may have talked about the murder case to a manicurist at a Fountain Valley nail salon while the trial was underway, court documents show.
Anna Saloky, a clerk at the West Justice Center, said she just happened to be sitting nearby and overhead the conversation. Saloky said the juror told the manicurist she had “talked to her husband about the case, but that he did not want to discuss it with her,” as the court documents put it.
Saloky told her supervising judge, Richard Lee, who passed along to Prickett the scenario that might have been juror misconduct.
If it is determined that juror misconduct did occur, it is possible another trial would play out.
Melton’s defense attorney, Associate Defender Denise Gragg, is now investigating whether his case may have been compromised.
On Thursday, Saloky was called into the courtroom along with the five female jurors.
The former jurors were separately asked a series of questions, including whether they had visited a beauty salon during the trial. While some had been to salons, all five said they had not visited the…