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Milwaukee’s “runaway juror” back from Cancun, appears before judge

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MILWAUKEE -- Ivana Samardzic is accused of trading her civic obligation for a family vacation. Tuesday, August 28th, Samardzic was back in Milwaukee -- scheduled to appear in court after she reportedly did not show up for the end of deliberations in a Milwaukee County felony shooting trial she was serving as a juror for. Instead, Samardzic reportedly hopped on a plane to Cancun.

Samardzic called and told others at the courthouse she’d left her vote with the foreman and was headed for Cancun.

“We encourage people to do jury service. We don’t encourage them to leave in the middle of it,” Milwaukee County Circuit Court Clerk John Barrett said.

Barrett said he’s been working at the courthouse for 19 years, covering 191 trials and has never had anything like what happened Thursday, August 16th happen — when Samardzic did not show up for the end of deliberations in the felony shooting trial of Spartacus Outlaw.

Outlaw’s defense attorney, Robert D’Arruda says he, too was taken aback by Samardzic’s taking off.

“It was complete disbelief. I can’t believe a juror would sit through three days of trial testimony, deliberate for two hours and then not come back,” D’Arruda said.

D’Arruda says his client agreed to allow the 11 remaining jurors to issue their guilty verdict on one charge and to hang at 8-3 on the other.

“The way things played out, it probably wouldn’t have mattered because the jury hung anyway, but that’s not the point. The point is, when you’re on jury duty, you’ve heard the case and you gotta stick it through to the end,” D’Arruda said.

Meanwhile, Barrett says Samardzic’s decision to fly to Cancun during the trial was a “colossal error.”

“I think that’s what people find amusing, is that someone could be so foolish as to do this,” Barrett said.

Tuesday, Samardzic held back tears as she put a face to the title "runaway juror."

"I'm just happy I'm not in jail. It was bad what I did, but I had fun while I had it. When I came back, I knew what I was gonna face. I don't know if this was worth it, but I did have fun in Cancun," Samardzic said.

Samardzic faced Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge JD Watts Tuesday for a show-cause hearing. The judge accused Samardzic of committing a contempt of court.

Samardzic said Serbian is her first language, and she didn't fully understand instructions.

"This was my first time serving. I didn't know how to deal with it," Samardzic said.

The judge and Outlaw's defense attorney didn't buy it.

"Seems to me she speaks English just fine," Outlaw's defense attorney Robert D'Arruda said.

Samardzic's brother, Bojan Samardzic spoke to the court Tuesday on his sister's behalf.

Ivana Samardzic faces $300 in fines as a result of her actions.

"If the case had not hung in a mistrial, or if we had not agreed to have 11 jurors hear the case, I think Ms. Samardzic would be eating bologna sandwiches for a few days," D'Arruda said.

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