Thursday, August 07, 2003

Government accuses Lentz counsel of misconduct for talking to jurors

As reported here by the AP, federal prosecutors are accusing the defense lawyers for Jay Lentz of misconduct in talking to jurors about their deliberations in the case where Lentz was convicted of federal kidnapping but the verdict was overruled by the trial judge, Judge Lee. The defense is claiming that by some means, parts of exhibits that were not admitted into evidence were allowed into the jury room and considered by the jurors.

I often tell the story that after a trial, a juror called me at my office, and when we hung up, I panicked, wondering whether something was wrong with talking to the juror. Eventually I called someone who told me there was no problem ethically, and moreover, I should forget about it because it was his considered view that the jurors lie - the ones who say they were with you were actually the ones blackening your client's name back in the jury room, and the reason they talk to you is because they have a guilty conscience.

The ethics rule in Virginia says this, as reported here:

RULE 3.5 Impartiality And Decorum Of The Tribunal
(a) A lawyer shall not:
(1) before or during the trial of a case, directly or indirectly, communicate with a juror or anyone the lawyer knows to be a member of the venire from which the jury will be selected for the trial of the case, except as permitted by law;
(2) after discharge of the jury from further consideration of a case, ask questions of or make comments to a member of that jury that are calculated merely to harass or embarrass the juror or to influence the juror’s actions in future jury service; or
(3) conduct or cause, by financial support or otherwise, another to conduct a vexatious or harassing investigation of either a juror or a member of a venire.


(c) A lawyer shall reveal promptly to the court improper conduct by a member of a venire or a juror, or by another
toward a venireman or a juror or a member of the juror’s family, of which the lawyer has knowledge.

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