Judge orders special election for Hattiesburg mayor

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - After more than two months in limbo, Hattiesburg's mayoral election from back in June, will get a redo. This comes as Judge William Coleman orders a special election after Thursday's post-trial hearing.

"A special election is one of those things that frankly judges like to do when there is the least bit of confusion," said defense attorney Brandon Jones.

That confusion stems from a mistrial last month where former city council member Dave Ware contested the election which he lost to incumbent Mayor Johnny DuPree. Because of alleged illegal ballots, the election ended up in court. Discrepancies in a verdict count then ended with a hung jury. There was an initial nine to three verdict in favor of Ware which quickly became overshadowed when Judge Coleman polled jurors individually, leaving an eight to four deadlock. That's one vote short as required by law. During Thursday's hearing, the jury foreman took the stand and told the court the nine to three verdict was correct behind closed doors. He also told the court there was no re vote in the jury room after the jurors were sent back in to make sure their vote was correct.

"The only thing that we really wanted to make sure was to ensure that the true will of the voter was heard," said Ware.

The ruling is not what Ware was hoping for. His attorney's asked the court to declare him the winner through the initial jury verdict or a direct one from the court. Judge Coleman however, chose the alternative saying jurors have a right to change their verdict and the true will of the voters can't be determined. That has now opened a new campaign season for Ware and DuPree.

"We're going to go door to door, make sure it's a grassroots campaigning. That's from the bottom up," said Ware.

"We need to move forward from this trial. The trial is over. The judge has said there's going to be a new election so we need to move forward with that," said DuPree.

Part of DuPree's legal team, Brandon Jones, says they've been prepared for the outcome even though it's not the one they wanted either.

"I hope that what this does is bring a degree of finality to this city," said Jones.

As both DuPree and Ware gear up for the campaign trail, again, both say they just want a fair election.

"We'll make sure that people have confidence in our elections because they need to have confidence in our elections," said DuPree.

"I think people are energized and they're aware of what's going on," said Ware.

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