Contact among jurors, court officials and local media in the Corrine Brown case consumed a 90-minute hearing in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan Monday.
Brown was convicted last Thursday on 18 of 22 counts of fraud and corruption.
The hearing culminated in the release of the transcript from a closed-door hearing. The transcript detailed the religious claims that prompted the dismissal of a juror.
Reading from his exchange with the juror last Wednesday, Corrigan said he asked Juror 13, “Did you say the words, ‘A higher being told me Corrine Brown was not guilty on all charges?’”
“No,” the juror replied, “I said the Holy Spirit told me that.”
The full transcript will available shortly.
Also discussed at court was a couple of curious juror contacts. Corrine Brown attorney James Smith said a juror emailed him Saturday night and offered information to “help” his appeal of her conviction.
Smith said the female juror wrote, “I have something that may help your appeal.”
Smith said he replied that he couldn’t discuss the substance of her concern, but that she should contact an attorney. He said he wanted to interview the juror, and planned to file a motion asking the court for permission.
Smith said that in a brief conversation with prosecutor Tysen Duva, that Duva didn’t object to that.
Duva disagreed. “I think he probably misheard what I said,” Duva said. “That’s not what I said.”
Duva went on to note the limitations of conducting juror interviews after a trial. According to federal court rules, “a juror may not testify about any statement made or incident that occurred during jury deliberations…” with few exceptions: If extraneous information was introduced by an outside agent to jury deliberations; if an improper influence was brought to bear; or if a mistake was made.
Corrigan said he would not allow any juror interview prior to receiving a formal request.
“I am disinclined at the moment to think those legal grounds are met,” Corrigan said of the exceptions.
In a different contact, Corrigan said a former juror texted his assistant, apparently to set the record straight about a news story that aired in which another juror was interviewed. The text message read, “I just heard on the news about a juror not voting guilty on all charges because of holy spirit telling him so. But that is not true in the partial vote we had taken at roll call before removal.”
It’s not clear what the juror thought was not true. Smith asked the judge to speak to that juror as well, but Corrigan said he would consider doing so only after receiving a formal motion. He also said he will consider a media request to release the names and addresses of jurors.
Finally, the judge discussed a complaint he received from Action News that Channel 4 had been transmitting verdict information from the overflow courtroom, in violation of the judge’s order. Corrigan said he wasn’t interested in “mediating disputes” between news competitors, and urged the station’s attorneys to try to resolve the matter on their own.
Read the full court transcript on the conversation and inquiry into juror 13, who was dismissed on Wednesday prior to Brown's verdict being reached.