Michigan Court Finds in Favor of Defendant in Jury Tampering Case

The Supreme Court of Michigan recently issued an opinion addressing whether a court appropriately charged a defendant with jury tampering for passing out pamphlets to individuals called for jury duty. After learning about a case against a man indicted for violating environmental regulations, the defendant became interested in jury nullification. On the morning of the man’s trial, the defendant went to the courthouse and began distributing pamphlets that described and promoted jury nullification. The pamphlets did not mention the man’s case, but instead, provided general information regarding jurors’ rights. However, the defendant handed the pamphlet to two women who told the defendant that they were summoned for jury selection.

The district court charged the defendant with obstruction of justice and jury tampering. The defendant moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that the term juror did not include individuals who were merely summoned for jury duty but were not selected or sworn. The man was ultimately convicted of the jury tampering charge. The man appealed, arguing that the government violated his First Amendment rights and the state’s jury tampering statute was unconstitutionally vague.

Michigan’s statute, MCL 750.120(a), states that a person may be charged with a misdemeanor if they willfully attempt to influence a juror’s decision, other than as part of a trial in open court. Jury tampering often involves bribing jurors to reach a verdict, using threats or intimidation to influence a verdict, or having conversations with jurors outside of court. Although the statute does not define the term “juror,” dictionaries delineate “jurors” as members of a jury or those summoned for jury duty. In addressing the term juror, the court chose to implement the narrow interpretation of the term. They referenced the Legislature’s decision not to include the language “any person summoned” when it enacted the statute. Moreover, swearing an oath is typically central to becoming a juror. Jurors do not receive a sworn oath before being summoned.

In this case, the defendant spoke to individuals who received jury duty summons but had not yet been chosen to participate in the case. The defendant approached the individuals outside, before they went through voir dire or were sworn in for any proceedings. Further, because the man reached a plea deal, none of the potential jurors had to participate in any proceedings. The court did not address the defendant’s constitutional argument because the case was resolved on statutory grounds. Ultimately, the court reversed the lower court’s ruling, finding that the defendant did not influence any juror’s decision.

Are You Facing Michigan Jury Tampering Charges?

If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense in Michigan, contact Michigan Defense Law. The attorneys at our law firm have extensive experience handling various criminal cases, including those involving serious allegations, such as Michigan homicide offenses, sex offenses, drug offenses, and witnesses intimidation and jury tampering charges. We ensure that our clients receive diligent and aggressive representation at every stage of the process. Contact 248-451-2200 to schedule a free initial consultation with a Michigan defense attorney at our office.

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