Reversal of Conviction Sought in Juror Case: ACLU and CCDB Support
[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
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
"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.