Judge denies defense attorney’s request for mistrial in Siloam Springs murder case

Francisco Ochoa

BENTONVILLE -- A local circuit judge denied a motion to grant a mistrial after a juror in Francisco Ochoa murder case was dismissed from the panel after she failed to disclose her connection to a murder case in Washington County.

Ochoa, 19, is charged with capital murder, unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, terroristic act, battery and two counts of aggravated assault. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Ochoa is accused of shooting and killing 20-year-old Kathrine Pembleton on June 25, 2021. She was pronounced dead at Siloam Springs Regional Hospital. The other victim, a 17-year-old girl, was taken to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, where she was treated and released, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Judge Robin Green dismissed the juror Wednesday morning from after she disclosed her family's connection to other murder case. She said she didn't like to talk about the case so she didn't bring it up doing jury selection.

Kent McLemore, Ochoa's attorney, requested a mistrial after the juror's dismissal. McLemore said he didn't believe his client could receive a fair trial because the juror's dismissal changes the make up of the jury.

McLemore said he could have used one of his challenges to strike the juror if she had been honest doing jury selection.

"Sometimes lying jurors cause a mistrial," McLemore said.

McLemore said he accepted the woman as a juror based on her false representation.

The dismissed juror didn't return for for Monday's jury selection after lunch and Green had the Benton County Circuit Clerk's Office call and tell her to get back to the courthouse. Green said her initial thought was to have the woman sit through jury selection and at the end talk with her and determine whether to find her in contempt of court.

However, Green allowed the woman to participate in jury selection when her name was randomly called. She ended up being selected to serve on the panel.

The judge denied McLemore's motion for the mistrial.

The jury was made up of six men and six women. There were three alternates: one man and two women.

The male alternate is now serving on the panel.

The trial resumed after the juror's dismissal.

The judge also had a man escorted from the courthouse after he used a bathroom that's designated for only jurors.

Karla Martinez, 20, of Decatur is charged as an accomplice with murder in the first degree, unlawful discharge of firearm from a vehicle, terroristic act and battery, along with hindering apprehension or prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Martinez told police she and Ochoa went to the Whiterock Street house together the night of June 25, 2021 and were there for some time. She said Ochoa pulled out a gun as they were leaving, according to the affidavit.

Martinez is being held in lieu of $200,000 bond in the Benton County Jail. Her jury trial is scheduled to begin March 11.