Home » Blog » Criminal Defense » Fairfax juror misconduct gets new Virginia criminal trial

Fairfax juror misconduct gets new Virginia criminal trial

Call Us: 703-383-1100

Fairfax juror misconduct - Image of shotgun

Fairfax juror misconduct gets new Virginia criminal trial

Fairfax juror misconduct — and any juror misconduct — risks a judicial reversal when the misstep causes possible prejudice for the defendant. As a Virginia criminal lawyer, I congratulate the Fairfax criminal defense lawyers who recently obtained a murder retrial after demonstrating that a juror violated the judge’s “ad nauseum instructions… to decide this case based upon what was presented within the four walls of the courtroom.” Commonwealth of Virginia v. Hargan, Fairfax County Circuit Court No. FE-2018-1575 (Nov. 9, 2022).  Against the judge’s foregoing directive in this circumstantial evidence case, the juror number 82 went home and used her own shotgun to test the defense’s theory of the case that this was a murder suicide, and not a double murder by their client. This juror concluded that the defense theory was not possible and shared the same with her fellow jurors. Jurors must always follow the judge’s directives. Fairfax criminal defendants and all accused people need to know that human nature means that not all jurors will abide by judicial admonitions for jurors not to discuss the case other than when all jurors are deliberating after the close of evidence, to not look for nor pay attention to any news coverage of the case, and to not do any independent investigation into the case.

Should I seek a jury for deciding my culpability and for recommending any sentence, in the light of this Fairfax juror misconduct case?

Some Virginia criminal defendants might be inclined to consider this Fairfax juror misconduct case in deciding whether to seek to waive a jury trial and to have a bench (judge-only) trial in their Circuit Court case, and whether to opt for a jury sentencing proceeding or not. Unfortunately, being humans, jurors will not always follow their oaths, which can hurt Virginia criminal defendants when, for instance, jurors apply a standard that is weaker than beyond a reasonable doubt to deciding whether or not to convict the accused. Then again, jurors sometimes apply jury nullification to acquit a criminal defendant, even when they do not find any reasonable doubt to do so. Whether or not your juror or judge is more likely to acquit than the other depends on many factors, including but not limited to who will be on your jury, who is your judge, what are the allegations and evidence (and how strong is the evidence?), who are the witnesses against you, how much do the allegations gag and inflame jurors, and how uncomfortable are the jurors about being confronted with people they know should they return an acquittal. Talk with your Virginia criminal defense lawyer about whether to move to waive a jury for your Circuit Court trial and whether to seek a jury sentencing proceeding.

Should my Virginia criminal defense lawyer seek juror removal or a mistrial if s/he learns of possible or actual juror misconduct?

Concerning this Fairfax juror misconduct case, if your own erring juror’s mis-step is not quickly enough turning off the radio when listening to traffic — and hearing a snipped about your jury trial — you and your Virginia criminal lawyer may not automatically want to seek the removal of that juror nor a mistrial. Factors to consider in making that decision include whether the alternative juror who might replace the erring juror will on balance be more likely to vote to acquit or dismiss the defendant. In deciding whether to seek a mistrial, the defendant and his or her criminal defense lawyer need to consider whether the current jury is more likely to acquit than any next jury.

What are my chances of winning my Virginia jury trial?

This Fairfax juror misconduct case underlines why it is critical for you to have a qualified lawyer defending you. When you are charged with a Virginia criminal offense, you and your lawyer need to be fully prepared for trial unless and until your case gets dismissed or you reach a settlement or plea agreement. You do not want to undergo major surgery with a rookie as the sole physician in the operating room. Nor, ideally, do you want a lawyer who is getting on the job trial training through you. Fairfax criminal and DUI lawyer Jonathan Katz has successfully defended hundreds of criminal defendants at trial, and will pursue a full court press for you as his client. Call 703-383-1100 to schedule your free in-person consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending case.