According to authorities, a 57-year-old man from Texas died on Thursday (August 11) shortly after ingesting an unidentified liquid in court as the jury convicted him on five counts of child sex abuse.
Edward Leclair was found unconscious in a holding cell next to the courtroom after being seen sipping from a plastic water bottle while sitting with his attorneys in Denton County.
The holding cell is located near the courtroom.
Leclair was standing trial in Denton, Texas, on five counts of sexually assaulting a child, which took place in 2016, according to Denton County Jail. However, he had been free on bond until his conviction this week.
According to Jamie Beck, an assistant district attorney in Denton County: “As these verdicts were being announced, he chugged a bottle of water he had at counsel table.”
“Our investigator noticed him chug the water,” Beck told CNN. “He told the bailiff he might want to go check on him. The bailiff did. He was unconscious in the holding cell.”
The District Attorney prosecuting the case said he thought the water looked “cloudy.”
Leclair’s defense attorney, Mike Howard, stated that his client had taken a “long drink from a water bottle” as he was listening to the verdict being read.
However, what was in the bottle was a mystery to him.
“Shortly after entering the holdover cell, he started vomiting, and emergency services were called,” Howard said.
The attempts by medical staff to revive Leclair were futile.
According to preliminary records from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, the convicted pedophile was declared dead at the Medical City Denton hospital at 3:21 p.m. on August 11, 2021.
“I can certainly say that it was highly emotional for everyone involved,” Howard told local media.
“We were shocked by this. It does carry a lot of emotion and even more so for the jurors. They didn’t choose to do this. They were chosen, and as we told them, serving on a jury and making sure that the justice system works for the alleged victim and accused person is the cornerstone of being a citizen and making sure our government and society function.”
Now, Howard isn’t so sure how exactly the court will proceed.
“This is something that obviously doesn’t happen very often,” he explained. “The judge in her 30 years and probably between us (prosecution, too) 100-plus years, [we] have never come across anything like this. The question is whether the legal thing to do is … declare a mistrial and have [the charges] dismissed, or is there another possible way to proceed?”
Update: A typo was corrected in this article at 2:25pm EST on Sunday, August 14. The author wrote “1980s” when they meant to type “2016.” We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. Our editor has now corrected the mistake.
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