Kevin O’Keefe noted that a California Court of Appeals had vacated a judgment in a case where a juror failed to disclose that he was an attorney. He also blogged about the case while it was pending.Here’s the decision: People v. McNeely. In this case, a jury had convicted McNeely of residential burglary, grand theft, and receiving stolen property. The defendant had a distinguished resumé. With 11 prior prison term convictions, he wasn’t merely a “Three Strikes” candidate. He had more than enough strikes to fan the whole side, and then some. And the appeal? Besides the blogger issue, the defendant contended that his convictions must be reversed because the trial court denied him his right to self-representation and also removed him from the courtroom (in part for feigning a seizure). You can draw your own conclusions about defendants who seek to represent themselves and end up having to be removed from the courtroom. Judges in a different state usually add the words “harmless error” in cases such as these.So, after the verdict, the defendant’s counsel learned that a Juror No. 8 had blogged about the case while it was pending. The defendant then sought an order disclosing juror names and information to assist him in moving for a new trial, in part because the statements indicated the juror had lied during voir dire, and also revealed the jury reached its verdicts through a compromise and not through a unanimous decision on the evidence and merits of the case.So, who is Juror No. 8?
Juror No. 8, who ultimately became the jury foreman, advised the court he was a project manager for a technology company. He did not mention that he was a licensed California attorney who had practiced immigration law out of a separate office listed with the California State Bar, and who, at the time of trial, was still using that office and spending approximately five percent of his time counseling an attorney colleague on some “lingering cases” Juror No. 8 had handled. Nor did Juror No. 8 disclose that he had held his present position for only two months, and was formerly one of the company’s attorneys. At an evidentiary hearing, Juror No. 8 testified that in his current employment he acted as a liaison between his employer and its outside counsel; was involved in reviewing, drafting and editing contracts for the company; dealt with outside attorneys and investment bankers as a “special assistant” to the company’s board of directors; filed trademark applications; and spent 10 percent of his time “in an in-house counsel role” representing foreign employees of the company in immigration matters. He also testified that he spent about 20 percent of his time involved with legal documents, explaining, “I’m a lawyer who got thrown into an engineering business at the invitation of the president of the company.” None of these facts had been disclosed during voir dire.
Seriously, if you want to know whether potential jurors are attorneys, just ask them. Juror No. 8 isn’t the only lawyer in California to assume both business and legal roles within a company. Nowadays, a lot of lawyers work for companies where their job title do not carry the traditional “general counsel” designation.Being a bit curious, I tried to figure out the identity of Juror No. 8. Google did return a matching search result when I looked searched for a sentence from the juror’s blog post.
Same, and Different (Jury Duty, Part III)6 Mar 2006 by RussThe effort to piece the evidence together began. The bailiff deposited the trial exhibits, including blown up photographs, a mug shot of Donald the Duck, and one Hyatt parking paystub in the center of the table. …Blog A – http://www.frw.net/index.php?blog=2
Unfortunately, the blog post had been removed, but you can find the owner of the domain via whois. And, if you run an attorney search from the State Bar of California web site, you will only find one San Diego attorney that has the same name as the owner of the website. Sure, the name may not be an identical match, but I’m thinking that the domain name is his initials. Didn’t need a court order to figure this one out.