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Juror Misconduct: Did You Get a Fair Trial?

Imagine getting charged with DUI after you have had three beers at a restaurant and were pulled over for having a headlight out. You feel fine and are not intoxicated. You voluntarily submit to a standard DUI investigation and take a breath test. The results show a blood alcohol content of .08 and you are arrested for DUI. Your attorney investigates the history of the breath test machine and discovers that the DUI breath test machine has been repaired ten times in the past five years and has not been properly calibrated in the last six months. You go to trial and you are confident that you will be found not guilty of DUI.

A jury trial begins with jury selection called voir dire. The attorneys and judge have the opportunity to ask jurors numerous questions to determine if they can be fair and impartial. In a DUI case, an experienced criminal defense lawyer will ask each juror about their drinking habits, their attitudes about drinking and driving, whether they are friends or family with any police officers, and their perceptions of DUI breath test machines. If a prospective juror is close friends with a police officer or involved with an anti-drunk driving group, such as Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, then there is a good chance that they will have some pre-conceived bias against the defendant. Thus, the criminal defense lawyer can strike them from the jury. What is the duty of a juror? Once an attorney asks a juror about these types of issues, the juror has a duty to answer truthfully and fully disclose any such conflicts. But what happens if a juror lies?

The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that if a juror lied during voir dire, or concealed material facts during the questioning, then the defendant is entitled to a new trial. Often juror misconduct of this nature is not discovered until months or years after the trial and any appeal. In many circumstances, juror dishonesty is discovered by regular citizens who are aware of a trial and then see a juror at a bar with a witness or the victim of a crime. Voir dire in a sexual assault case, rape, or murder will always include whether jurors know any of the witnesses or the alleged victim. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the murder conviction of a defendant in the Clinton County Superior Court, where a juror had lied and misrepresented her relationship with the victim’s wife. Several witnesses came forward who had seen the juror and relevant witnesses socializing at a bar. I am currently appealing the conviction of a man accused of sexual misconduct in the Carroll Circuit Court, where a juror concealed a close 15 year relationship with the alleged victim’s family.

If you have been convicted of a crime and suspect juror misconduct, you can attack the conviction by filing a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief (“PCR”). If you suspect juror misconduct, it is important to hire an attorney who will do a thorough investigation and be able to present evidence to the trial court that a juror lied. An experienced criminal attorney can take depositions of relevant witnesses and establish the facts that will be necessary to reverse your conviction. If you learn of possible issues of juror misconduct, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. If a juror lied during voir dire, your conviction may be reversed. Whether you are charged with an alcohol offense such as DUI, Public Intoxication, or Minor Consumption of Alcohol on Purdue’s campus, or you are charged with a major felony such as sexual assault, rape, child molesting, or burglary, you deserve a fair trial. And, you are entitled to an impartial and unbiased jury.

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Posted: 3/3/2009 8:54:45 AM by Brett Gibson
Filed under: juror, misconduct


 

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