After discussing our juror interviews, the class has now received a broad overview of what it is like to be a juror. However, no juror mentioned that he or she was influenced in an illegal way, such as by threats or bribes. If one of these actions had occurred, the lawyer or other party would have been committing the act of jury tampering, which is defined as “the crime of attempting to influence a jury through any means other than presenting evidence and argument in court, such as conversations about the case outside of court, offering bribes, making threats, or asking acquaintances to exert their influence on a juror.” http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/jury_tampering. The act of jury tampering is forbidden for lawyers under ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 3.5(a), which states “A lawyer shall not seek to influence a judge, juror, or prospective juror or other official by means prohibited by law.” http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_3_5_impartiality_decorum_of_the_tribunal.html.
Jury tampering is often associated with the mob. For example, the infamous Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering and was sentenced to eight years in prison. http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/on-this-day/March-April-08/On-this-Day--Jimmy-Hoffa-Sentenced-to-Prison.html. The Gotti crime family in New York City was also infamous for bribing jurors. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/intimidating-jurors-gotti-tapes-reveal-junior-gotti-trial-article-1.381740. Jury tampering is also frequently associated with gang trials. In one murder and racketeering trial of a gang leader, the judge had to decide whether to keep jury identities secret to prevent retribution from the gang. http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lawyers-argue-over-juror-anonymity-in-gang-trial/article_0cc470a3-2a57-5ade-a8dd-e61a2d162b22.html. In another gang incident, a mistrial was declared and a reputed gang member was arrested after he was caught copying down jurors’ names outside of a courtroom where the trial was occurring. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-06-18/news/ct-x-n-blotter-kane-county-0618-20100618_1_mistrial-murder-trial-jury. Additionally, jury tampering can be an issue in terrorism trials. One columnist criticized Eric Holder for prosecuting terrorists in federal court in New York City, and noted that protecting jurors and their families from the defendants is becoming increasingly difficult. http://www.aim.org/guest-column/terrorist-intimidation-witnesses-jurors-protection-overlooked-in-nyc-terror/.
Jury tampering is illegal according to federal law. For example, 18 U.S. Code § 1504 makes “influencing a juror by writing” a criminal action. http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/73/1504. Additionally, several states have enacted statutes against juror tampering. For example, Nebraska prohibits “with intent to influence a juror. . . .he or she attempts directly or indirectly to communicate with a juror other than as a part of the proceedings in the trial of a case.” http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=28-919. Louisiana prohibits jury tampering as well in the Louisiana Revised Statutes § 14-129. http://law.justia.com/codes/louisiana/2011/rs/title14/rs14-129. New York even has two classes of jury tampering—jury tampering in the first degree and jury tampering in the second degree. http://ypdcrime.com/penal.law/article215.htm#p215.25. These are just three states out of fifty—many other states have statutes forbidding jury tampering as well.
Jury tampering does occur in real life, as in the movies. A simple search on Google displays many hits regarding jury tampering. In one instance, a juror attempted to tamper with other jurors to get two criminal defendants acquitted in a drug trafficking case. http://www.fbi.gov/sanantonio/press-releases/2010/sa011110.htm. Moreover, the concept of jury tampering has been explored in popular media, most noticeably through the book by John Grisham, Runaway Jury. The book was then adapted into a popular movie. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0313542/. That book and movie involved tampering by both a juror on the jury and by parties outside of the jury. Another example of jury tampering is seen in the television show “The Sopranos,” where one of the mob family members decides to tamper with jury members to get a mistrial.
Although jury tampering is not common, it can be very scary to jurors and is a concern for courts in every jurisdiction in the United States.