A Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputy was fired on Wednesday after he allegedly attempted to speak with jurors about an ongoing civil trial.
Patrolman First Class Roy Fife’s position with the Sheriff’s Office was terminated after he ran into jurors in the parking lot of the Beaufort County Courthouse and engaged them in a conversation about the case they were there for, according to Capt. Bob Bromage.
“In that conversation, the jurors advised him to not speak with them about the trial, and he continued to engage them in conversation,” Bromage said.
Fife had been with the department for 21 years, Bromage said, and was at the court house on Sheriff’s Office duty for an unrelated matter at the time of the alleged conversation.
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According to Beaufort attorney Joel Bailey, the trial was a lawsuit filed by his clients Charles Holley and Kathy Holley against Ford Motor Company.
Charles Holley, who worked for the company for 30 years, contracted Multiple Myeloma, a form of cancer that attacks lymph nodes, bone marrow, the intestines and the bloodstream.
The suit, filed in May of 2013, alleges that the chemical Benzene is in Ford products and may have contributed to Holley’s cancer, Bailey said.
After almost four years, the lawsuit reached a jury trial under 14th Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen last week, Bailey said. Jurors were on their eight day of listening to testimony and arguments when Fife allegedly approached them, Bailey said.
The jurors informed Mullen of what happened with Fife, and the judge declared a mistrial, Bailey said.
No dates for when a new jury will be seated and a new trial will begin have been scheduled, he said.
“(Fife) definitely was not supposed to communicate with jurors and should have known better,” Bailey said. “(Charles Holley) is pretty devastated right now. Another jury will have to be impaneled. We will have to go through it all over again.”
Bailey said his client is not cancer-free as of this point and said one concern is whether he will be able to go through another trial.
“It’s a cost to both parties, not only financially, but emotionally,” Bailey said.
Bailey said an amount had not been set for how much his clients want to be awarded, should they win, but he did say that Charles Holley has over $1 million in medical expenses.
Of the conversation with jurors, Bailey said, “In addition to being improper, it is just a tremendously devastating thing for a deputy to have done.”