ATLANTA– Two death penalty trials in Georgia broke down this week afterdays of costly jury selection but before panels could be struck.In Northeast Georgia’s Stephens County, the trial of accused “NaturalBorn Killer” Christopher Matthew Smith halted after six days ofdifficulties in finding jurors untainted by pretrial publicity.And, in Southeast Georgia’s Coffee County, the trial of alleged murdererJoey Robert Brant was suspended after five days of voir dire becauseprospective jurors discussed the case among themselves and withoutsiders.

While trial dates for both men will be reset, the aborted courtproceedings mean months more anguish for families of the victims anddefendants. It also means the two aging cases will get older and moreexpensive before they are resolvedPaying the 300 jurors in the Smith case will cost Stephens County nearly$12,000, according to that circuit’s court administrator, George B.Collins III. Collins says he doesn’t have a figure for the total costsof the six days but a defense lawyer estimates them at $35,000 to$40,000.

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