A judge in Florida ruled that a wealthy polo tycoon, previously found guilty of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison, will be given a new trial.
The reason had to do with misconduct on behalf of a juror, who had gone as far as to conduct his own intoxication tests at home during the trial and had also lied about his past during jury selection.
Our Birmingham DUI defense attorneys recognize that such second chances are rare. Improprieties on behalf of jurors are not as uncommon as one might think, but the due diligence required to catch them won’t usually come with dumb luck. An experienced legal defense team is your best armor against this kind of scenario – especially because most defendants aren’t fortunate enough to be granted another trial.
As the judge ruling in this case stated, the defendant was entitled to a fair trial – not a perfect one. However, the conduct of this particular juror had rendered the case a “constitutionally impermissible proceeding.”
While we would tend to view the at-home intoxication experiment of this juror to be perhaps the most egregious violation, as it essentially equates to entry of additional evidence not approved by the court, the judge decided that alone wouldn’t have been enough to grant a new trial. Rather, it was the cumulative effect of all the juror’s actions that warranted the case being retried.
The 69-year-old juror reportedly wanted to get on the jury because it was a high-profile case. The prominent defendant had reportedly struck a 23-year-old recent college graduate one night after downing several drinks at a local country club.
As such, the juror is alleged to have concealed information about a DUI conviction his ex-wife had received several years earlier, while he was married to her. He reportedly had a stroke and divorced his wife soon after learning she was having an affair with someone she met in the DUI program.
Then during the trial, the juror reportedly downed the same number and type of drinks consumed by the defendant on the night in question, in order to determine if he was intoxicated. The juror determined that in fact he was intoxicated by consuming that amount – failing to take into account that numerous factors such as weight, height, age, gender and alcohol consumption frequency can all play a role in one’s level of intoxication – even when the same type and amount of drink is consumed.
Still, the court might not have known about any of this – but for a book penned by the juror after the end of the trial. Now, it’s not illegal for a juror to write about their experiences once the trial is concluded. However, the fact that he lied to get on the jury and then later profited from having done so makes his judgment in the case highly questionable.
All this of course is no guarantee that the defendant will be absolved, but it does at least give him a shot. Having the benefit of knowing what tactics worked and what did not in the first trial will serve to help his lawyers moving forward in the next case. More than likely, though, both sides will negotiate a plea deal in an effort to avoid the cost and attention of another high-profile trial.