Clark County Elementary Teacher May Get New Sex Abuse Trial

A former Clark County elementary school teacher convicted last month of sexually abusing three of his students could receive a new trial after a juror was accused of misconduct.

District Judge Jackie Glass on Tuesday indefinitely postponed the sentencing of former Kesterson Elementary School teacher Mark Zana to allow for further investigation.

After the Aug. 13 verdict, one juror told the judge's staff that another member of the jury had researched Zana on the Internet during the trial.

Zana's defense attorney Tom Pitaro, who has filed a motion for a new trial, said, "There's no doubt in my mind that he (the juror) Googled Zana."

During a trial, jurors are forbidden from receiving any information about the case they're considering other than what they get in the courtroom and judges constantly remind them of that restriction throughout each trial.

The prohibition is intended to protect jurors' deliberations from being tainted.

Pitaro asked Glass to subpoena the juror's computer to determine what Internet sites he viewed during the trial, noting that the media's ongoing coverage was online at the time.

"I'm not seizing any computer," Glass told Pitaro and prosecutor Tom Carroll.

"I think it will be sufficient to bring in those 12 jurors."

The judge said she intended to question each juror separately about the allegations, after which she'll consider Pitaro's motion for a new trial.

To "maintain the integrity of the process," Glass ordered the names of the jurors involved to be kept secret and ordered any court documents that contain those names to be sealed.

She also ordered that attorneys refrain from contacting the jurors until the investigation is finished.

The jury found Zana, 40, guilty of open and gross lewdness and three counts of lewdness with a minor.

The lewdness with a minor convictions stem from separate incidents during which Zana put his hand down the shirts of two former students and touched their breasts.

The open and gross lewdness count, a lesser charge, was for encouraging a student to dig in his pockets for candy.

Zana also was found guilty of six felony counts of possession of child pornography, which police found on his personal computers.

He was acquitted of six other similar counts.

He faces three potential life sentences for the lewdness with a minor convictions, but lesser punishments are an option.

The open and gross lewdness conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail.

He also faces one to six years for each possession of child pornography conviction.

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