New Twist In Scrushelman Case
The defense has been arguing that a few jurors acted improperly and so there should be a new trial. According to the latest reports, one of the jurors gave the defense a sworn statement saying that another juror brought information from the internet into the jury room during deliberations. (I wonder if he found it using “the google?”).
Considering “extrinsic evidence” is a big no-no. The jury is supposed to deliberate using only the evidence introduced at trial. So if one of them actually did his own outside research and then used that information during the deliberations, we could see a new trial.
However, and this was the focus of yesterday’s hearing, it is also a big no-no for defense attorneys to question jurors about the deliberations. What the judge wants to know is how the defense obtained the sworn statement.
According to the testimony yesterday, the juror was upset about the verdict and went to a minister for guidance. The minister directed him to an attorney. After hearing the story, the attorney had the juror swear an affidavit and then the attorney gave the affidavit to the defense.
That sounds kosher to me. There’s nothing in that story suggesting the attorney was working on behalf of the defense. It sounds like this all happened spontaneously.
But that is not the whole story. The attorney then met with the defense. The defense realized that the affidavit was not properly notarized, and that the information in it was not complete. The attorney then went back to the juror, got more information, and made sure the affidavit was in the proper form.
Everyone denies that the return trip was at the behest of the defense, but that’s sure what this looks like. Especially considering the way the attorney obtained the second affidavit:
In the second affidavit, Debra Winston opened by asking: “Were there documents, newspapers, information from the Internet, etc., discussed in the jury room to consider making a verdict in this case?”
That is the kind of question someone asks when they know exactly what information they need. This wasn’t general information gathering; it was questioning with a purpose.
So did the defense act improperly? I don’t know, this could go either way.
What’s interesting is wondering what will happen if 1) the juror’s testimony is true, but 2) the attorneys acted improperly in getting it. One the one hand, there would be strong reasons for a new trial, but on the other hand, the reasons would have been obtained by forbidden means. I have no idea how that conundrum would be resolved: Whether the court would visit the sins of the attorney on the client and refuse to consider the testimony of the juror, or else impose sanctions on the attorneys but consider the evidence.
In any event, this case just keeps getting better.