Cornell University Law School defines Jury Tampering as: “The crime of attempting to influence a jury through any means other than presenting evidence and argument in court . . . .”
18 U.S. Code 1504 is titled “Influencing juror by writing” It reads: “Whoever attempts to influence the action or decision of any grand or petit juror of any court of the United States upon any issue or matter pending before such juror, or before the jury of which he is a member, or pertaining to his duties, by writing . . ., in relation to such issue or matter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”
This came to mind when I read an article in the Boston Globe on April 13 about the foreperson of the jury that is in the process of deliberating the fate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It did not name her but in a rather unusual manner set about to describe all that was known about her and also the answers that she gave to the questions asked of her in court. In answer to one question she said: “I don’t like being the center of attention, . . . ” Despite her preference she is now having been the subject of this article.
The trial is still continuing, as you know, because having found Dzhokhar guilty the jury has to decide whether he is to be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison. This foreperson will lead the jurors in making that decision. I found the write up quite unusual because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a juror picked out for special attention during a trial like this.
Obviously the foreperson will have her attention drawn to the article and will read it. No matter how diffident one is the overwhelming curiosity of being written about on the front page of a newspaper is something the person will want to read. This person going to read about themselves will notice right next to her story is another story dealing with the matter she is about to consider.
It is headlined:”Sister of slain MIT officer opposes death penalty for Tsarnaev.”
The article read: “In a posting on Facebook and on her Twitter account, Jennifer L. Lemmerman wrote that she continues to mourn the loss of her younger brother.” She continued on and the last quote attributed to her is: “But I also can’t imagine that killing in response to killing would ever bring me peace or justice. Just my perspective, but enough is enough. I choose to remember Sean for the light that he brought. No more darkness.”
Then the next sentence suggested to me that the juxtaposition of the articles was not a coincidence. It seemed to have been planned. The next sentence after the quote was: “A family spokesman said Lemmerman would not discuss her comments further, and her posting is no longer visible on her Facebook page.”
It appears that the sister’s remarks were old news and they could have been printed at a time much earlier than the day of their publication; or, if that was not possible, given that the newspaper was planning to write an article about the foreperson, it certainly could have been delayed for a period of time. I wondered the necessity of lining both up next to each other.
The Globe has editorialized against the death penalty for Dzhokhar and filled its pages with statements of people who also oppose it including most of the Congressional delegation as I will write about in a later post, “Saving Terrorist Dzhokhar.” It is hard for me to get away from the idea the Globe was being cute and was trying to influence the foreperson by writing about her and putting next to her story the compelling story of the sister of Sean Collier.
These articles, especially the unusual one about the foreperson and the sister, should make the prosecutors wary about the influence it will have on the jury. I would expect they will raise the issue and ask US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. to undertake a further inquiry of the jurors prior to their commencing their deliberations on April 21 whether they have been reading these articles. If so, he will have to determine whether these out-of-court articles against the death penalty have influenced the jurors in their deliberations. It would be tragic if the Globe in what may have been a subtle intent to influence the jury caused a mistrial and the Dzhokhar case had to be tried over again.