Mistrial in Word of Faith abuse trial due to jury tampering

This 2016 image from video shows the entrance to the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, N.C. Newcomers to the Word of Faith Fellowship live by a list of strict rules for daily life, which sect leader Jane Whaley says God revealed to her, former members say. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)
This 2016 image from video shows the entrance to the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, N.C. Newcomers to the Word of Faith Fellowship live by a list of strict rules for daily life, which sect leader Jane Whaley says God revealed to her, former members say. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)

RUTHERFORD Co., SC (WSPA) – A mistrial was declared Tuesday in the trial of a minister accused of leading the beating of a former church member because he’s gay.

Perry Shade
Perry Shade
Court officials say the jury foreman conducted his own research and shared his research with the jury. That same juror, Perry Shade, is also accused of creating a list of questions that was passed out to the jury.

Shade is charged with criminal contempt of court and faces up to 30 days in jail and $500 fine if convicted of the charge.

The jury was in its second day of deliberations during the trial of Brooke Covington, a longtime minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina. She’s accused of leading the 2013 beating of Matthew Fenner. Authorities say several church members beat Fenner in 2013 to expel his “homosexual demons.”

Fenner said he was punched, choked and screamed at for two hours in the sanctuary in January 2013.

The jury deliberated for about an hour Monday before returning Tuesday to resume deliberations. On Tuesday morning, the jury told a judge they could not reach a verdict. The judge decided against delivering an Allen Charge, which is given when a jury is deadlocked and can’t reach a unanimous verdict.

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