Sex Crime Sentencing on Hold Amid Allegations of Juror Misconduct
The sentencing of an ex-police detective convicted of committing rape, despite his legal team's Zoloft defense, has been postponed amid allegations of jury misconduct.
Rancho Cucamonga Criminal Defense Lawyer Houman Fakhimi knows that cases of juror misconduct are actually becoming more common in the social media age. Sequestration among jurors has never been very common. But now they have more access than ever to dig up information on cases.
This case in particular, however, did not involve social media. According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the jurors reportedly contacted the defense team after the conviction and reported that she had overheard another juror telling a third juror that she had once been prescribed Zoloft, and it "didn't make her crazy." Additionally, yet another juror reportedly made statements about being a victim of domestic violence.
The defendant had been accused of abducting and brutally sexually assaulting a young waitress back in 2010. His lawyers had reported that he had no recollection of the incident, as he had been under the influence of prescription antidepressant Zoloft.
The issue is not so much that someone on the jury panel at one time or another took Zoloft. It is a matter of whether she used that information to form an opinion of guilt - and also shared that information with other members of the jury, who may have used it in reaching their conclusions of guilt.
The defense team has filed a motion saying that such statements reveal a presumed prejudice, mainly because jurors did not disclose this information when asked about it during the initial jury selection.
The judge responded she had no choice but to hold a hearing on the matter and postpone the defendant's Aug. 16 sentencing until the matter had been resolved.
The jury had rejected the defendant's defense of insanity after a portion of the trial focused on his mental state during the incident.
A similar example of this type of misconduct happened recently in Florida, where a polo tycoon was convicted of DUI manslaughter following an accident that resulted in the death of a 23-year-old engineering graduate. In that case, an alternate juror reported there were multiple incidents of misconduct. One of those included a juror who allegedly discussed the evidence with other jurors prior to the conclusion of the trial, made derogatory comments about the defendant and his wealth throughout the trial and read numerous media reports about the case prior to the end of the trial.
Another alleged misconduct involved a juror who reportedly conducted his own experiment to determine how drunk he would feel after consuming the same number of drinks as the defendant reportedly had the night of the crash.
A judge's decision is still pending in that case.
Another case, also in Florida, resulted in a mistrial declared following a murder conviction, after it was revealed a year later that one of the jurors had posted negative comments about the defendant in the case on her Facebook page.
Many judges make it a special point to reiterate the rules of jury conduct, specifically as it relates to new media. However, that doesn't mean everyone follows those rules. If the conduct is proven to be such that it could have influenced the outcome of the case, a mistrial is the logical next step.