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Judge Mock Undecided on Jury Misconduct Ruling in Ellis Case

Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600by Antoinnette Borbon

In today’s hearing Judge Mock told defense and the Deputy DA that he has looked over the testimonies of the two witnesses who testified in a short preliminary hearing last week in regard to jury misconduct, and still is undecided on the law and would not rule today for a new trial.

In the state’s case against Kevin Ellis, it was made known to Deputy public Defender Joseph Gocke that a juror had been discussing the details of the case during the trial.

A woman who refers to herself as “Eagle Eye” on the Vanguard website states she talked about the case with a juror who happened to be her next door neighbor. The woman says that every day her neighbor/juror would come home rather upset and give information about the trial in which she was a juror.

She stated that the juror had appeared to have already made up her mind once she heard testimony from the two young boys about being molested, and that the defendant Kevin Ellis was in fact guilty.

Eagle Eye contends that on one occasion she was so upset from nightmares that she could not sleep. She stated she was told this by another neighbor.

But when the juror took the stand, it was somewhat of a different story. Ms. Skinner would tell that she only made mention a couple times and denied being that upset.  She went on to say that her neighbor was the one who would wait for her arrival and then ask questions about the trial. Ms. Skinner testified that she would try to avoid her as much as possible so she would not have to talk about the trial.

She stated that Eagle Eye had a bit of a fascination for court trials and like to hear what was going on every day.

But Ms. Skinner did admit to giving her neighbor friend, Eagle Eye, a copy of the article in the paper about the trial she was a juror for.

Chief Investigator for the Public Defender’s office, Aaron Bohrer, had gone out to take the statement himself from Ms. Skinner and subpoenas were given to the two ladies.  He stated that Ms. Skinner did mention her neighbor/Eagle Eye being somewhat nosy.

Ms. Skinner stated on the stand that she felt she had been impartial and fair in her decision with the verdict and had not made up her mind earlier. However she admitted that after hearing the boys’ testimonies she was upset.

Judge Mock felt there was not enough evidence to have a new trial based on the two testimonies in the hearing but that he would research more case law in regard to juror misconduct and will make his ruling on Monday.

gang-stock-picUpdate: Judge Declares a Mistrial in Four-Defendant Alleged Gang Case

by Antoinnette Borbon

After a long and lengthy questioning of several potential jurors for a new trial in the state’s case against the four young men accused of beating and robbing a man near the 7-Eleven, judge Rosenberg declared a mistrial.

The ruling came after two jurors admitted to knowing family of two of the young men, but not before a long and more thorough line of questioning was done by both DDA and defense attorneys.

In questions by Defense Attorney Jeff Raven, it would be about judgment of another, and how the looks of someone having nothing to do with his/her innocence or guilt.  Raven went on to ask jurors if tattoos bothered anyone or caused anyone to make a judgment. Raven stated, “Is there anyone who does not feel my client is not entitled to the same defense as anyone else just because he may be in a gang? Would it be different if my client was a school teacher, doctor?”

Defense attorney Bob Spangler would repeat the question, “Do any of you have a religious belief against judging another,” or have issues with testimony from a person under the influence, or in any programs for addiction?”

Defense attorney Keith Staten would talk about a more racial bias. He asked about anyone having any prejudices with races and if they could be fair no matter the race of an individual. Staten asked if they could wait until they have heard all the evidence to decide on a verdict without rushing to a conclusion before the case was given to them to deliberate on. All potential jurors would raise hands in accordance.

Defense Attorney Ava Landers would ask about eye witness identifications and how jurors felt about its accuracy. She would ask about how people felt about police statements and the validity of them.

DDA Johnson asked if the jurors could listen to the alleged victim’s testimony and make a decision on validity, whether even with a criminal past, would they deem him/her less credible.

After all the lengthy questioning and careful choosing of the jury panel, the two jurors would confess knowing family members of two defendants.

Back in November a jury was hung on the verdict in this case. Jurors could not come to a unanimous vote on guilty or not guilty but did state they felt a bit threatened by family members of the defendants who attended the trial. It was said the exits were being blocked as some of the jurors went to leave the courtroom each day. But those threats were unfounded.

Rosenberg did assert that during the trial there were a lot of distractions from the comings and goings of people in attendance and that it will not be allowed during the new trail.

DDA Johnson and all four defense attorneys agreed on to begin the new trial on April 1, 2014.

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About David Greenwald

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

9 comments

  1. April 1? Priceless…

  2. Why is the juror identified by name and her neighbor-accuser identified by her Vanguard pseudonym (and only by that fictious name)?

  3. Why did Judge Rosenburg declare a mistrial? Sounds as though they were in the middle of jury selection and would have avoided putting these two on the jury based on their relationships.

    Did the two lie during the questioning, end up selected for the jury and start hearing the case? If so, why not just move to the alternates? And, if so, did they get chewed out or send straight to jail?

    • I think they had already seated the jury and dismissed the others.

      “Did the two lie during the questioning, end up selected for the jury and start hearing the case?”

      Yes, I believe they lied during questioning and confessed to this after the jury was seated.

      ” If so, why not just move to the alternates? ”

      Antoinnette will have to answer this. Two possibilities. A lot of trials they only have one alternate. The other is that maybe Judge Rosenberg felt like the entire process was contaminated or suspect.

      “And, if so, did they get chewed out or send straight to jail?”

      Interesting question in light of other cases.

  4. I’m shocked and disappointed to read here that my neighbor “Ms. Skinner” lied under oath about what transpired while she was a juror. (One might hedge a bit about how far over the speed limit they were driving, but lying about what someone has said or done is a lot less ethical, especially under oath in a legal matter.)

    But Skinner was under very serious pressure by the DDA: She was faced with arrest and prosecution if she told the truth. In addition, it would surely be embarrassing to be the one on whose account a jury verdict was overturned after a 2 week trial. And, convinced Ellis is guilty, she would not want him to have a new trial.

    The DA’s investigator spent a lot of time at my house trying to convince me that I didn’t really hear what I heard, and that I didn’t understand what I heard, and he had a lot to say about how expensive it would be to have to have another trial, and that wouldn’t be good.

    The public defender’s investigator on the other hand said he had a very narrow assignment, simply to determine whether the neighbor had talked to me about the trial during the trial. There was no interest in speaking to others whom the juror had also talked to about details of the trial testimony. There was no interest in investigating what feedback the juror received from all the people she talked to during the trail.

    There seem to be 2 issues: Whether the juror received any influence at all, in any way shape or form, from any and all of the people she talked to during the trial.
    The second issue is whether the juror was able to weigh and consider the evidence properly. Because she didn’t understand the instruction of the Court not to talk about the case, and she didn’t understand the instruction not to make up her mind until she heard all the evidence, there’s a question as to whether she could understand and properly weigh the evidence, some of which she clearly did not understand.

    There’s no mention that I’ve seen here that the defendant did file a Marsden motion earlier this month.

    The efforts of the DA’s office to avoid a mistrial due to juror misconduct seemed to me to be far, far, greater than efforts by the public defender’s office to see that their client received a fair trial.

    The whole thing is disappointing – threats, both real and implied, by the DA’s office to try get the testimony they want, and a less than robust effort by the public defender’s office.

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