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Posted: November 3, 2014

Defendant Gets New Trial When Someone Tries to Bribe a Juror to Find in His Favor

On October 8, 2014, the Second Circuit issued a decision in United States v. Morrison, 13-4737-CR, affirming the grant of a new trial to a defendant where an unknown person had attempted to bribe a juror to find for the defendant.

In Morrison, the defendant was convicted by a jury in the EDNY of illegal possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. After the trial,

the government learned that, during the jury’s deliberations, an unidentified individual had attempted to bribe the jury foreperson . . to induce him to return a verdict favorable to the defendant, and he had failed to disclose the attempt. The government opened a grand jury investigation, and . . . informed the district court and the defendant of the incident. [The defendant] moved to vacate his conviction. After three days of evidentiary hearings . . . the district court found that the government had not successfully rebutted the presumption of prejudice that applies when a juror is exposed to extrajudicial influence,

and granted the defendant a new trial. (Internal citations omitted). The Second Circuit affirmed, explaining:

Guided by the standards outlined in Remmer[ v. United States, 350 U.S. 377 (1956)], it expressly acknowledged that its task was to determine whether the government had rebutted the presumption of prejudice by coming forward with information that the extraneous influence was harmless. In making that determination, the court was required to apply an objective test, assessing for itself the likelihood that the influence would affect a typical juror. It found that [the juror] was, like the juror in Remmer, a disturbed and troubled man from the date of the contact until after the trial, as a result of the bribe attempt and because of his fear of significant sanction should his abhorrent conduct later be uncovered. The court further concluded that the typical or hypothetical juror would react just that way. As a result, the district court held that the contact had not been harmless in this case.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted). The logic of the Remmer rule is clear, but it nonetheless seems odd that the as a consequence of someone trying to bribe a juror to acquit the defendant, the defendant gets a new trial.

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