New Questions Raised About Anand Jon Trial
Today, with Jon appearing in court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, news media got a glimpse of the new evidence and it is indeed dramatic. Although the defense motions are currently sealed, along with the lips of attorneys and prosecutors alike, some details emerged in court and were later amplified during a defense news conference held outdoors. Jon's defense is basing its request for a new trial on two foundations.
The first is a bizarre incident that occurred when the trial was, as new defense lawyer Ronald Richards put it, "a live situation during deliberations." This involved an attempt by Juror No. 12 to speak to Anand Jon's sister, Sanjana, during verdict deliberations. The man, about whom the original jury's foreman had complained to Judge Wesley because of his unwillingness to deliberate, had contacted Sanjana during this time. He requested to speak to her and she agreed to meet him at a Starbucks. Since Sanjana Jon was neither a witness nor a member of the defense team, she was free to speak to the juror without informing the court -- although her brother's lawyers immediately did so once they learned of the meeting.
Jon's lawyers also claim they informed the prosecution team of Mara McIlvain and Frances Young of their intention to carry out a "sting" by secretly wiring Sanjana in order to record what was on No. 12's mind. They never got the chance -- District Attorney's investigators intercepted the juror just as he was about to enter the coffee shop and prevented him from meeting Sanjana Jon.
"But for the District Attorney's blocking the door to justice" -- this would be the door to Starbucks -- "we would have found out why the juror contacted Sanjana," Richards said at the news conference.
Now, Jon's lawyer don't merely want to learn what No. 12 wanted, they are also asking, through interviews and email records to find out who in the D.A.'s office authorized the interception. If its names extend high enough to disqualify the entire office from prosecuting a new trial, Richards said, the case would be tried by the state attorney general's office. That event is by no means certain, though, and Judge Wesley has set April 1 for the next hearing date. In the meantime, the defense team will try to persuade the juror to be interviewed by its members. Eventually, it seems, No. 12 will have to appear once before Judge Wesley in open court -- either on April 1 or at a later date.
One question that needs to be clarified for the public is whether or not the juror's conduct was brought to Judge Wesley's attention at the time it occurred and, if it were, why didn't the judge feel the deliberations were compromised by the incident.
"If it happened during deliberations," says USC law professor Jean Rosenbluth, a former federal prosecutor, "it would have been unheard of for the court not to know -- and for the judge not to have questioned the juror. Either the juror did something wrong or he didn't. The judge must have thought nothing bad had happened because he let deliberations go on."
The defense's second grounds for a new trial was what it called "prosecutorial misconduct." Jon's attorneys claim that during the trial prosecutors twice threatened a member of their team, Eric Chase -- once with arrest and, at another point, with disbarment. The defense contends that the threats were acts of intimidation that lowered Chase's level of aggressiveness during cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.
The prosecution today was represented by Mara McIlvain, who stood quietly through most of the proceedings. McIlvain's face was drawn as she left the courtroom and, outdoors, she appeared somber as she walked past the place where Jon's supporters would gather to meet the press. During that press conference, new lawyer Ronald Richards, who had once represented Jon before his trial began, said he and his colleagues hope to prove Anand Jon's verdict was tainted and that some jurors were addressing issues other than the charges they were tasked with evaluating. Suddenly a trial that had seemed history gave the appearance of being very much alive, at least until April Fool's Day.