For Immediate Release:
August 9, 2000
Holdout Juror Acquitted of Wrongdoing
[Denver] - On August 4, First Judicial District Chief Judge Thomas Woodford signed a motion filed by the District Attorney to dismiss the contempt of court case against Laura Kriho, ending a four-year saga that brought the issues of jury rights and jury nullification into the international spotlight. Legal experts say the Kriho case was the first time in over 300 years that a juror was prosecuted based on evidence of how they deliberated and voted in the jury room.
Kriho was tried for contempt of court after she was the lone holdout on a jury in a methamphetamine possession case in May 1996. In February 1997, Gilpin County District Court Judge Henry Nieto (now a Colorado appellate judge) convicted Kriho of a precedent-setting new crime: failure to volunteer answers to questions that were not actually asked of her during jury selection. In April 1999, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed Kriho's contempt conviction. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court had improperly invaded the secrecy of the jury room by allowing testimony from other jurors about jury room deliberations.
The Court of Appeals also ruled that their was insufficient evidence to convict Kriho of contempt based on the facts that Kriho was a volunteer for the Colorado Hemp Initiative Project and that she possessed knowledge about the legal doctrine of jury "nullification", a juror's right to vote according to their conscience and nullify unjust laws. Kriho was not asked any questions about these issues during jury selection and her failure to volunteer this information was not a crime.
However, the Court of Appeals said that the District Attorney could re-try Kriho on the "one remaining allegation" that Kriho intentionally failed to volunteer information during jury selection about a 12-year-old deferred judgment (legal acquittal) for possession of LSD that was supposed to be wiped from her record, even though she wasn't asked any questions relating to it.
First Judicial District D.A. Dave Thomas decided to ask for a dismissal of the contempt case "on the grounds that it is in the best interest of justice given the passage of time and evidence unavailability due to the appellate process." On Friday, Judge Woodford granted the D.A.'s motion to dismiss.
"I am so glad this is finally over," says Laura Kriho. "I hope that by fighting and winning against this persecution that I have helped protect other jurors from going through what I did. The jury is meant to be the conscience of the community. Jurors should be free to deliberate and to vote however they deem fit, without fear of later prosecution if they vote against the government's case. Jurors should be respected for doing their civic duty, not held in contempt. Jurors should be praised, not persecuted."
"The belief that the jury selection process should be used to eliminate independent-minded jurors is at the root of Laura's prosecution and conviction. The idea should never have occurred to either a judge or a prosecutor that a juror could be criminally prosecuted for failure to disclose what she was not asked", says Kriho's attorney, Paul Grant. "I hope that judges and prosecutors learn from the Kriho case that it is a mistake to prosecute jurors who don't accept the government's view of the evidence or the law. The very purpose of a jury trial is to resist oppression by the government, without interference or intimidation from any quarter, including the court."
"It's good to see that the light of sanity can penetrate even the Gilpin County justice system," says Capp Sehota, co-founder of the Jury Rights Project. "There's hope."
Background on the case and text of legal briefs and rulings: http://www.levellers.org/jrp/kriho.index.htm
To see the actual signed order to dismiss: http://www.levellers.org/jrp/acquit.image.htm
Write D.A. Dave Thomas and congratulate him on his wisdom in dropping the prosecution of Laura Kriho. He's up for re-election this year, so let him know that he will gain more votes if he takes a strong stand on protecting jurors and jury rights.
District Attorney Dave Thomas
First Judicial District Attorney's Office 500 Jefferson County Parkway
Golden, Colorado 80401
Phone: (303) 271-6800
Fax: (303) 271-6888
Web: http://co.jefferson.co.us/dpt/da/da.htm Email: [email protected]
Campaign Web Page: http://www.jeffcoda.com
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