This post specifically focuses on when the jury gets it wrong due to jury misconduct.
Our firm, specifically attorney Murad Mohammad, is scheduled for a Schwartz hearing this week. A Schwartz hearing is to decide whether a defendant should receive a new trial based on jury misconduct. The case involves alleged jury misconduct regarding the defendant's race and comments that prejudiced the defendant based on his race and not the record. Here is a brief synopsis of the facts in the case:
Murad's client has already had 2 trials on this matter: the first trial ended in a hung jury on all counts and the second trial ended in a hung jury on 2 of 3 counts and a guilty verdict on the 3rd count.
The allegations involve $300,000 worth of meth (6 lbs), marijuana (30 lbs), multiple guns, and cash found in a fleeing vehicle. All other individuals apprehended in this case were convicted.
Murad's client was unknown to police with a clean record before this incident, he was allegedly a passenger in a car that was following the vehicle that contained the items listed above. The other individuals charged and convicted.
Murad's client was arrested at Los Ocampos restaurant while having dinner with the driver of the second car. The other individuals were apprehended when police pulled over their vehicle and apprehended them after they fled on foot. Murad's argument presented his client, at worst, as a passenger in a vehicle that was following another vehicle as someone who would only be guilty by association, as the evidence did not support his involvement.
Schwartz sets forth the principle that all defendants are entitled to a free trial. In this situation, that trial should be free from racial bias. According to juror reports after the trial, there was one juror who aggressively coerced the other jurors to convict Murad's client on at least one count because he was Mexican. This juror allegedly made racial comments and encouraged his fellow jurors to disregard the record and pay attention to the defendant's race based on his experience living in California. This juror did not exhibit any racist behavior at any other point in the trial before deliberation.
A key case for those dealing with Schwartz issues is State v. Varner, which states that:
“Criminal defendants have due process rights to a fair trial and an impartial jury. U.S. Const. amends. VI, XIV; Minn. Const. art. I §§ 6, 7; State v. Bowles, 530 N.W.2d 521, 536 (Minn.1995). “The exposure of a jury to potentially prejudicial material creates a problem of constitutional magnitude, because it deprives a defendant of the right to an impartial jury and the right to confront and cross-examine the source of the material.” State v. Cox, 322 N.W.2d 555, 558 (Minn.1982). The law guarantees that every defendant will have his case decided strictly according to the evidence presented and not by extraneous matters or by the predilections of individual jurors. Miller v. North Carolina, 583 F.2d 701, 706 (4th Cir.1978).”
So where do we go from here? Briefs from both sides are filed with the courts and now a hearing will take place where the Judge will be hearing testimony from jurors and asking questions regarding what transpired during deliberations.
We will keep you updated on this case with developments and hope this is helpful to those dealing with jury misconduct issues.