Cape man not guilty, ahem, guilty of cocaine possession

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A Cape Girardeau man was found guilty of cocaine possession in a jury trial Tuesday afternoon, although a jury foreman's mistake gave him some momentary hope of freedom.

Joshua D. Whirl, 21, was found guilty of Class C felony possession of crack cocaine. He faces a possible sentence of one day to one year in the county jail or one to seven years in prison, and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000.

Judge John Heisserer will sentence Whirl May 24.

Whirl was charged after officers from the Cape Girardeau Police Department and Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force, armed with a search warrant, entered his residence at 421 S. Pacific St. on April 16, 2003, and found three rocks of crack cocaine in a duffel bag in Whirl's bedroom.

Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said that after the jury deliberated on Whirl's case, the jury foreman unintentionally "teased" Whirl when he mistakenly told the judge that the jury had found Whirl not guilty. While the form the jury fills out read "guilty," the foreman mistakenly said "not guilty," then immediately corrected himself.

Heisserer sent the jury back to the jury room and they returned a few minutes later with the form filled out finding Whirl guilty, and made the correct declaration.

Assistant prosecutor Angel M. Woodruff said she wondered what had gone wrong.

"The cocaine was found in this defendant's duffel bag, along with his photo ID right next to where he was sleeping," she said. "I really thought it was a strong case and I was wondering how the jury could have found him not guilty."

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