Mistrial Announced for the Police Officer Who Killed Mike Ramos

The court can’t seem to find enough jurors

Judge Dayna Blazey declared a mistrial Friday, May 26 after chaotic days of jury selection (Photo by Austin Sanders)

What is probably the most important trial in the history of the Austin Police Department won’t be starting any time soon.

Judge Dayna Blazey declared a mistrial Friday afternoon in the case of Christopher Taylor, accused of murdering Mike Ramos in a southeast Austin parking lot while on duty in April of 2020.

The Taylor mistrial declaration came after a full week of chaos surrounding the jury selection process. On Monday, Blazey had to dismiss 80 potential jurors when doors to the courtroom were locked and bailiffs repeatedly denied press and public entry, who missed a large portion of what is supposed to be an open process. (Prior to the trial, a bailiff told the Chronicle’s Austin Sanders via email that “no media will be allowed into the courtroom during the jury selection.”) Restarting jury selection with a new pool of candidates made finding an adequate number of jurors much more difficult, Blazey said – by Friday, 210 potential jurors had been called, 130 had been examined by the attorneys on both sides, and only seven had been seated.

Blazey said she will meet with prosecutors and defense at some point next week – a specific time was not determined – to reschedule the trial. She said she will bring in three panels of 100 potential jurors each and advise them that the trial is now expected to last four weeks, not three. Blazey added that the proceedings will require a larger courtroom. “We’re going to scrunch chairs together as best we can,” she said.

Aside from the locked courtroom debacle, Taylor’s defense filed a motion for mistrial last week over what they say was jury tampering. In their motion, the attorneys describe notes relating to the case found on potential jurors’ cars. They say the notes were in 9x12 inch envelopes under the windshield wipers of at least three cars belonging to potential jurors, but none of the other cars parked in the area. “The images and words depicted clearly relate to this matter and to defendant Christopher Taylor and decedent Michael Ramos,” the motion states. “The words and images depicted are also reasonably interpreted to be threatening and intimidating in nature.”

The motion continues: “[T]he fact that these envelopes were found on potential jurors’ vehicles caused other potential jurors to express fear and concern for their safety and the safety of their families if they were selected to serve as jurors in this case, and their fear and concern became grounds to strike those individuals for cause from being eligible to serve on the jury.”

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to the Chronicle it has opened a jury tampering investigation regarding the notes. There is likely surveillance video footage from cameras near the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Building, where the trial is being held. Apparently, no arrests have been made in connection with the notes and no suspects have been publicly identified.

Taylor killed Ramos, a Black and Latino Austinite, only a month before Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, galvanizing a weekend of intense protest in Austin at the end of May 2020. Thousands of young Austinites protested against police brutality, waving signs bearing Floyd and Ramos’ names, confronting rows of officers protecting police headquarters, and shutting down I-35. Taylor shot Ramos in the back of the head as he was driving slowly away from officers, and the trial will ask jurors to determine whether that constituted murder.

* Editor's note Tuesday, May 30, 3:50pm: This story has been updated to include information about alleged jury tampering.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Christopher Taylor, Mike Ramos, Michael Ramos, Dayna Blazey, Jose Garza

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