Man on trial for attempted murder accused of riding home with juror, escaping from courthouse

Credit: West Memphis Police

Credit: West Memphis Police

A man on trial for attempted murder in Arkansas is accused of catching a ride home with a juror.

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West Memphis police said Mardriekus Blakes, 32, came back the next day, but walked out the front door of the courthouse hours before he was convicted.

He hasn't been seen since, according to WHBQ-TV.

Once he is found, Blakes is facing 40 years in prison after being convicted of two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

The deputy prosecuting attorney on the case, Vandell Bland Sr., said during a break before jury deliberations that Blakes apparently left and never returned.

“A person gets afraid – fear – and they see the handwriting on the wall and they see they’re going to be found guilty and they’re going to prison. And they don’t want to go to prison and so they leave the courthouse,” Bland said.

Despite his absence, the trial continued. The jury found Blakes guilty on six separate charges, and now police are searching for him.

Blakes was convicted in connection with a September 2018 shooting outside a convenience store in West Memphis, but him leaving isn’t the strangest part of the trial.

The night before he escaped, a juror drove Blakes home after a day in court.

Bland told WHBQ that he found out about the ride the next morning, which was the day Blakes left and never came back.

The judge then dismissed that juror and replaced him.

Rule 28 pre-trial motion

Blakes was originally held on a $500,000 bond and sat behind bars from October to July, a period of nine months.

He was freed from jail weeks before his trial started.

How? It's called Rule 28 in the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure.

The rule states that “any defendant charged with an offense and incarcerated in a city or county jail in this state pending trial shall be released on his own recognizance if not brought to trial within nine months.”

Blakes’ attorney Bart Ziegenhorn filed a pre-trial release motion weeks before the trial. It was granted the next day.

A message left for Ziegenhorn went unreturned on Friday.

“I don’t think Rule 28 is the problem, because if it was a person who had enough wealth, he could get out just on a money bond,” said Bland.

Bland said Blakes faces additional charges if caught and that decision will be made once arrested.

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