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United States v. Juror Number One

December 21, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JUROR NUMBER ONE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

The issue before the Court involves juror misconduct by unauthorized use of e-mails during deliberations in a criminal trial. After being dismissed, Juror Number One disobeyed the Court's orders and discussed via e-mail with other jurors her opinion on the Defendant's guilt. Juror Number One's conduct led to the dismissal of another juror on the panel and had the potential to lead to a mistrial. On December 16, 2011, the Court found Juror Number One guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal contempt for juror misconduct and sentenced her to a fine of $1,000. This Memorandum is an expanded version of the sentence delivered by the Court from the bench.

II. BACKGROUND*fn1

On June 2, 2011, Juror Number One was selected for jury service in the above captioned criminal trial, as a member of a twelve-person jury with two alternates. When the jury, in the above captioned case, was empaneled, the Court provided general instructions, including:

Now, a few important words about your conduct as jurors in the case. First, I instruct you that during the trial you are not to discuss the case with anyone or permit anyone to discuss the case with you. Until you retire to the jury room at the end of the case to deliberate, you simply are not to talk about the case. . . . Of [sic] anyone tries to talk to you about the case, bring it to my attention immediately. . . . I instruct you that until the trial is concluded an [sic] you have heard all the evidence and retired to the jury room, you are not to discuss the case with anyone. There are good reasons for this ban in discussion . . . . I know many of you use cell phones, . . . to access the internet and to communicate with others. You must also not talk to anyone about the case or [use] these tools to communicate electronically with anyone about the case . . . or use these devices to communicate electronically by messages, . . . including e-mails . . . . This is extremely important, particularly in this era of electronic communication, it is extremely important that you follow this direction not to communicate in that manner . . .

Trial Tr. 5:23-7:18, June 2, 2011.

Each time the jury recessed the Court instructed them, "[d]o not discuss the matter among yourselves or with anyone." See, e.g., Trial Tr. 60:17-18, June 3, 2011.

Upon her request, on the second to last day of trial, for reasons associated with her employment, and with no objections of the parties, the Court dismissed Juror Number One and replaced her with the first alternate on June 7, 2011. Trial Tr. 269:21-270:7, June 7, 2011. At the time she was dismissed, and in open court, the Court instructed her individually:

The only thing I want to instruct, as you know, the case has not yet been completed, so please do not discuss the case until it is completed. [The Deputy Clerk] will give you a call and let you know how things turn out and at that point you will be free to discuss the case and your experience, if you want to. If you don't want to, you don't have to discuss it with anybody. It would be entirely up to you, but don't do that until the matter is complete.

Id. at 270:7-16.

On June 7, 2011, the night she was dismissed, Juror Number One sent an e-mail to Juror Number Eight and Juror Number Nine, jurors that were still on the panel, stating:

Dear [Juror Number Eight] and [Juror Number Nine]: It was great meeting you and working with you these past few days. If I was so fortunate as to have finished the jury assignment, I would have found [Defendant] guilty on all 4 counts based on the facts as I heard them. There was a lot of speculation and innuendo, but that is the case as I saw it. How wonderful it would have been to see how others saw it. Please fill me in as you can. . . . I feel like I was robbed. After four days, I should have been able to contribute in some way. . . ...


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