There is an interesting question raised in St. Louis in a capital murder case: is a defendant denied a fair jury and trial if two jurors has sex while sequestered as well as two sheriff’s deputies. Roberto Dunn, now 34, who was convicted in 2000 of killing his girlfriend’s mother and found out later that the trial was a real turn-on for the jurors and deputies.
Dunn allegedly stabbed Geneva Campbell, 42, with several kitchen knives after she and Dunn got into an argument in October 1998.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Julian Bush has this issue before him. He received the letter from another juror who stated that “[s]exual liberties by deputy sheriffs were rampant also,” the letter read. The juror, Jennifer Thompson, stated that the “acts of sex and insubordination were scandalous and unspeakable …” and that she heard sexual noises coming from the next hotel room.
Lisa Stroup, an assistant public defender is pushing the issue for a new trial — calling for a hearing with jurors and deputies as witnesses. There is also a claim of ineffective representation in the case.
In her letter, Thompson accused two jurors of having sex with each other during two evenings at a hotel where the panel stayed. She said jurors believed the two sheriff’s deputies assigned to the case were having sex with each other while on duty at the hotel.
This raises a serious issue for new trial. Any sexual involvement with police officers in the court proceeding would be create a danger of bias and influence. Moreover, sexual relations between jurors would create an unknown bound between them — potentially affecting their independence. If they discussed the case outside of the court, it might violate standing court orders. What is clear is that a sexual relationship between jurors or with court staff would have been a legitimate matter for voir dire and would likely have led to their exclusion from the jury.
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