[Denver] -- Opening briefs were filed Monday with the Colorado Court of Appeals by Paul Grant, on behalf of his client, former juror Laura Kriho. The appeal seeks to reverse Kriho's conviction for contempt of court for failing to volunteer information that was not requested of her during jury selection.
The Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar both filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs in support of Kriho's appeal. Neither organization could be reached for comment Monday.
Kriho was prosecuted after she was the lone holdout for acquittal on a jury in a methamphetamine possession case in Gilpin County in May 1996. During jury deliberations, Kriho allegedly criticized the drug laws, discussed sentencing consequences for the defendant, and discussed the doctrine of jury nullification, the historic power of juries to vote according to their conscience.
Kriho was tried in October 1996 by First Judicial District Chief Judge Henry Nieto. Nine of her fellow jurors testified about their discussions during jury deliberations. In February 1997, Judge Nieto convicted Kriho for failing to volunteer information to the court during jury selection. Judge Nieto ruled that Kriho should have volunteered the facts that she supported reform of hemp and marijuana laws, that she was arrested (but not convicted) in 1985 for LSD possession, and that she was familiar with the doctrine of jury nullification. Kriho was cleared of the perjury aspect of the contempt charge. The judge admitted that she had not been asked any questions about those issues. Kriho was fined $1200.
"A juror cannot be put on trial for improper deliberations, as Laura was. This will destroy the independence of the jury system," Grant says. "The purpose of the jury is to resist government oppression. A jury cannot function if the eyes and ears of the government are in the jury room with them. Laura is not guilty of anything more than following her conscience and standing up for what she believed was right."
"I don't want my conviction to make anyone afraid to serve on a jury or to deliberate freely when they do serve on a jury," Kriho says. "Hopefully, my experience will educate people about the history, the power, and the importance of juries."
Legal experts say the last time a juror was prosecuted based on evidence of jury room deliberations was over 300 years ago.
The Colorado Attorney General's office will file a response to the appeal within the next few months.
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