Two Maine brothers who were convicted in March for holding undocumented individuals for profit are set to remain free and be retried later this year, because one of their jurors made racial slurs against them.
A federal judge announced the new trial Monday, claiming that the brothers Hector Fuentes, 38, and Guillermo Fuentes, 36, deserved to be sentenced by a full jury of unbiased people, according to the Bangor Daily News.
The defendants are both documented individuals and own three Mexican restaurants, which are still open.
“The defendants are entitled to have twelve — not eleven, but twelve — jurors make (a) decision impartially based upon all the evidence and based upon deliberations among them,” U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby wrote. “I conclude that these defendants were denied that right, no matter how much this juror believes that he has no discriminatory feelings toward Mexicans.”
The jury announced its decision March 18, finding the Fuentes brothers guilty of document fraud and harboring undocumented individuals for profit. The initial trial lasted less than two weeks.
But one juror’s racist remarks were brought to the Hornby’s attention in mid April. The juror had allegedly said that the defendants were “all guilty wetbacks anyway.”
The juror denied he made the derogatory remark at first, but then admitted to it and claimed he said it only after the trial had finished.
Hornby said the juror’s testimony was unreliable in his written decision.
“Certainly I share the government’s frustration that we did not learn of the incident immediately and before the alternates had been discharged, because the trial could have been salvaged with the juror’s replacement by alternate juror,” Hornby wrote.
The Fuentes brothers are both free on bail for the time being.
A new trial is set to take place in October.
Sources: Bangor Daily News