Jury Misconduct... Incarcerated because Pregnant... Reckless Driving & More

Fredrick Bowman v. State of Nevada (published opinion reversing conviction and remanding for new trial because of jury misconduct - aka Ristenpart Law Won)

Defendant Bowman was arrested for a disturbance at a casino.  He was transported to Washoe County Jail and in the booking process, a small baggie of drugs were found on the floor near Mr. Bowman.  The State argued that the drugs fell from Mr. Bowman as the deputy was searching him.  Defense argued that the deputy inadvertently tracked the drugs into the booking room on the bottom of his police work boot.  The trial lasted 3 hours.  Jurors deliberated for 3 hours and indicated they were split 50 for guilt and 50 for acquittal.  District judge sent the jurors home to start deliberations again in the morning.  District judge failed to instruct jurors that they were not allowed to do independent research or experiments. 

At home, two different jurors conducted independent experiments regarding the State's and the Defense theories.  These jurors came back, the information was communicated to the other jurors at some point and the jury convicted.  Defense filed a motion for a new trial based upon the jurors' misconduct which was denied by the district judge. 

The Court held that the district judge erred in denying Mr. Bowman's motion for a new trial.  The Court held that it was "patently prejudicial for the district court to fail to give a jury instruction sua sponte prohibiting jurors from conducting independent research, investigations, or experiments."

The Court states "given the ease with which jurors may conduct independent research, investigations, and experiments, failure to give an instruction prohibiting jurors from such conduct in any civil or criminal case constitutes plain error."  The Court further states such an instruction should make clear jurors are not to:

  1. communicate with anyone in any way regarding the case or its merits - either by phone, email, text, Internet, or other means
  2. read, watch, or listen to any news or media accounts or commentary about the case
  3. do any research, such as consulting dictionaries, using the Internet, or using reference materials
  4. make any investigation, test a theory of the case, re-create any aspect of the case, or in any other way investigate or learn about the case on their own.

Justin Kelley v. State of Nevada (published opinion reversing reckless driving conviction)

Mr. Kelley, while driving an ATV, led police officers on a chase through the wilds of Wells, Nevada.  Defendant Kelley was charged with eluding a police officer (felony NRS 484B.550(3)(b)) and reckless driving (misdemeanor NRS484B.653(1)(a)).  Mr. Kelley plead no contest to the misdemeanor charge of reckless driving and then filed a motion to dismiss the felony eluding charge under Double Jeopardy theory arguing reckless driving was a lesser offense of eluding.  District court denied the motion.  Mr. Kelley plead guilty to the felony eluding charge. 

The Court examines the elements of reckless driving and eluding.  Under the Blockburger test, the Court determined that reckless driving is a lesser offense of eluding an officer charge.  As such, Mr. Kelley could not be punished for both crimes.

Since Mr. Kelley has already been convicted of the lesser, his conviction for the felony eluding violated double jeopardy and the Court reversed his conviction for eluding.

Lindsie Newman v. State of Nevada (published opinion affirming convictions)

Ms. Newman was on probation for a gross misdemeanor conspiracy to commit grand larceny when she picked up and pled to a new felony charge possession of a controlled substance.  She was placed on probation again for the new case.  During this time, Ms. Newman became pregnant.  Subsequently, Ms. Newman was suspected of violating her probation by possessing and using drugs.  At the probation revocation hearing, the district judge had to decide whether to run her sentences consecutively or concurrently.

The district judge stated his main concern was that Ms. Newman "stay in custody long enough for that child to be born."  The district judge decided to run the sentences consecutively because "I don't want to see you out doing anything until that child is born."  Ms. Newman appealed arguing it was an abuse of discretion for the district judge to sentence her to longer incarceration because she was pregnant.

The Court held that the district judge did not abuse discretion because the district judge considered several other factors (namely the nature of the crimes, the probation violations, and the several chances at reinstatement) when deciding to run the sentences concurrent.  The Court distinguished this case from a case in New Jersey where that court incarcerated a pregnant defendant charged with welfare fraud and agreed to release the woman once she had the baby.  Here, the Court found that Ms. Newman's pregnant status was not the only thing the district court considered so not abuse of discretion.

The Court makes a very strong statement "our decision is based solely upon the unique facts of this case.  Nothing in our opinion today should be construed to indicate that courts should consider a defendant's status as a pregnant addict when imposing a sentence."

Edmond Paul Price v. State of Nevada (unpublished opinion ordering limited remand for more facts whether Interstate Agreement on Detainers was violated)

In 2010, Mr. Price allegedly participated in a robbery and kidnapping with use of deadly weapon.  Mr. Price was in a California prison on unrelated matters when the Nevada district attorney decided to charge him for the above allegations.  In February 2011, the district attorney requested a retainer be lodged against Price.  On February 23, 2011, Mr. Price demanded a timely disposition of the matter under the Interstate Agreement on Detainer Article III under which the State has 180 days to bring the defendant to trial.  If the State fails to meet this requirement and time frame, then the case must be dismissed.  Mr. Price ultimately went to trial two years later in May, 2013.

The Court does a lengthy review of the court records to determine when the 180 days started and if they were tolled or suspended for any reasons.  The Court ultimately decided that there were insufficient facts in the record regarding the timing and reasoning for the trial date.  The Court ordered limited remand to determine whether Mr. Price's IAD right to a speedy trial was violated.