A juror in the first-degree murder trial of Joshua Alberts was excused from the jury Tuesday after she said she’d heard the brother of the victim comment as he stormed out of an Ada County courtroom.
Alberts, 40, is accused of setting a Feb. 20 ambush for Joshua Warren, killing Warren as the latter went to the Whispering Pines apartment complex off Ustick Road, where his ex-wife lived, to pick up his two children.
A woman identified as Juror No. 52 said she heard Ronald Warren, the brother of the murder victim, say something to the effect of “I can’t stand this” as he banged the door and left the courtroom.
Alberts was on the witness stand describing Joshua Warren as a man who physically abused his ex-wife and who “loved to fight.” The ex-wife was Alberts’ girlfriend at the time of the Feb. 20 confrontation between the two men in which Alberts is accused of fatally shooting Warren at least 12 times.
“It was kind of a derogatory statement,” the juror said when questioned by District Judge Melissa Moody.
As Ronald Warren left the courtroom, he loudly struck the metal bar that allows the door to open. The noise caused the judge, jurors, attorneys and most members of the audience to turn and look.
Moody addressed the disruption when Warren returned about 20 minutes later. Moody sent the jury out of the courtroom to speak to the prosecution and defense attorneys. Moody said the victim’s family had a right to be in the courtroom and listen to testimony, but she couldn’t allow disruptions.
“It’s tough for me to make this call,” Moody said before telling Warren to leave the courtroom and not return.
Warren got up and headed for the door, but turned and yelled, “You’re going to die” at Alberts, adding an expletive.
Jurors were outside the courtroom and did not hear that exchange. Moody adjourned court for lunch.
When court resumed, defense attorney Daniel Lorello asked for a mistrial. “If any of the jurors heard it, I don’t know how you can undo that,” Lorello said. “The consequences are dire. I’d hate to go forward with this hanging over my client’s head.”
Moody had a court marshal bring jurors in for questioning.
. Juror 52 was the only one who heard anything.
Moody denied the request for a mistrial. Lorello then asked that Juror 52 be dismissed, which was granted with no objection from the prosecution. The jury has 15 members, and alternates will be excused before the jury deliberates.
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Kai Wittwer rested his case earlier Tuesday, telling the jury that Alberts laid in wait for Warren shortly before noon the day of the shooting, with a loaded Glock 9 mm handgun with at least two full clips.
Alberts testified that he grew up in Utah and had lived in Boise for nearly two decades. He spent 11 years working for the RC Willey furniture store in Meridian, including three years as a manager, and had worked nearly six years for Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, emptying surgery rooms, cleaning them and getting them ready for the next use during a graveyard shift.
He had quit his job at the hospital before the shooting, saying he had become tired of working the overnight shift. He said he withdrew $25,000 from a retirement account to live on until he found another job.
He said he met his girlfriend, who also worked at Saint Al’s, in April 2015. They began dating but maintained separate residences.
He said he spoke “extensively” with his girlfriend about her relationship with Warren. She told him Warren once barricaded her in a room and held a knife to her neck and that he kicked her while she was pregnant to try and force a miscarriage.
“He was a bad dude,” Alberts said.
“Were you afraid of him?” Lorello asked.
“Absolutely,” Alberts replied.
He said Warren would call his girlfriend, asking her for money, and would frequently harass her and call her names. One time he called her at 5 a.m., a day after calling her 20 times, Alberts said.
He said Warren once called his ex-wife, asking her that if she died — died that minute — whether he would receive money from her life insurance policy. Warren said his father was in bad shape and could use the money.
“It was crazy,” Alberts said.
Two weeks before the shooting, Warren came back to Boise after spending time in California and told his ex-wife he was coming over to pick up their two children. After the children went to his car, Warren went back to the second-floor apartment and began banging on the door, saying he wanted to speak to Alberts.
Alberts, who said Warren accused him of stealing his wife when he spoke to him on the phone one time, said he didn’t want to talk with him. Alberts later called Boise police after Warren refused to leave. He said officers told Warren to leave and that he could be arrested for trespassing if he returned.