Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.
In 2003, the movie Runaway Jury was released based upon the best-selling novel written by John Grisham. The movie took on the sensitive subject of jury tampering by highlighting a case filed against a large gun manufacturer. One of the jurors involved offers to deliver the right verdict for a price. Although the movie is a fictional account of jury tampering, jury tampering is a crime that is very real.
What is Jury Tampering?
First and foremost, jury tampering is a criminal offense that involves intentionally attempting to influence a jury in a criminal or civil proceeding or during a grand jury inquest. Some examples of jury tampering include:
- Bribery to arrive at a certain verdict
- Using threats and intimidation to sway a verdict
- Having conversations with jurors about the case outside of the courtroom
Jury tampering can be direct, such as when one juror is trying to convince another to vote a certain way, or indirect, which is the case when someone asks another person or friend of a juror to influence the juror into reaching a certain verdict.
A juror is any person who has been selected to sit on a jury to evaluate evidence in a court of law. Attorneys who are involved in legal proceedings are also banned from interacting with jurors in order to prevent them from influencing verdicts. At times, protestors who block entry to a courthouse may also be charged with jury tampering.
Jury Tampering and the Law
Laws against jury tampering vary from state to state, but most states, and the federal government, consider jury tampering to be a felony offense. A felony is a crime that is punishable by at least one year or more of prison time, and in many states up to and including the death penalty.
The penalties for jury tampering vary by state as well. In Ohio, for example, the maximum penalty for jury tampering is 10 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000. In Louisiana, jury tampering in a civil case is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison. Whereas at the criminal level, it is punishable by whatever fine and prison term the defendant in the case receives with the exception of death penalty cases, where a sentence of up to 99 years of hard labor may be imposed.
Notable Jury Tampering Cases
Let's take a look at some notable jury tampering cases that have received media attention.
In July of 2017, 18-year-old Charles Williams was on trial for murder. His father, English Burton, was present during the proceedings. One day after court, Burton followed one of the jurors and walked up to him while he was stopped in his vehicle. Burton proceeded to ask the juror for help and yelled out his phone number to call. The incident was reported by the juror and witnessed by a deputy who was parked nearby. Mr. Burton was sent to jail and charged with aggravated jury tampering.
In an attempt to thwart his conviction for drug possession with the intent to sell, 31-year-old Jose Chavez asked his stepfather to hand a note to one of the jurors. Instead of taking the note, which likely would have led to a mistrial, the juror reported the incident. As a result of his attempt to tamper with the jury, Chavez faced an additional six years in jail.
George Pape was one of the jurors who acquitted the accused crime boss, John Gotti, following his 1987 trial. In 1992, Pape was arrested and charged with jury tampering. Although he was actually a good friend of a close associate's of Gotti's, Pape decided to keep this information to himself during jury selection. After being selected as a juror, he sold his vote to acquit Gotti. Pape was found guilty of jury tampering.
Jury tampering is a criminal act that involves someone intentionally trying to sway the jury's decision in a civil or criminal case or during a grand jury inquest. Jury tampering can be direct from one party to another, or indirect involving a go-between.
A juror can be influenced in a number of ways such as through bribery or via threats and intimidation. Laws against jury tampering exist at both the state and federal levels. While laws vary amongst the states, most states consider jury tampering to be a felony punishable by both imprisonment and fines. Over the years, several notable jury tampering caseshave received media attention including one that involved alleged crime boss John Gotti.
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