Judge Chides Juror for Statements
The foreman 'should be ashamed' for voicing doubts about his panel's guilty verdict, judge says
By Dan Eggen, staff writer, The Des Moines Register
April 25, 1997
The judge who presided over the David Flores murder trial has sent a harshly worded letter to jurors in the case, chastising the panel's foreman for publicly sharing his doubts about the guilty verdict.
Polk county District Judge Richard Blane II writes that juror Samuel McCrorey "should he ashamed" and "should live the rest of his life with the knowledge that he has violated your trust and that his word is no good." John Wellman, the public defender representing Flores, said the letter was unusual, improper and appears to encourage secrecy in the courts. Blane, who released the correspondence Thursday following a public-records request by The Des Moines Register, said he stands by the letter. "I feel an obligation to the jurors even after they're discharged," he said.
Flores was found guilty last month of first-degree murder and other charges in the April 1996 shooting death of Phyllis Davis. The two-page letter on court stationery was sent to all l2 jurors -- including McCrorey -- on April 19, three days after Flores was sentenced to life in prison by Blane.
On the same day Flores was sentented, McCrorey told The Register he regretted the verdict: "I feel horrible that a young man is going to prison for life for a crime he didn't commit." He could not he reached Thursday. The jury panel had agreed among themselves not to talk publicly about the verdict, according to McCrorey and Blane. But McCrorey said he agreed to talk to The Register because his misgivings were weighing on his conscience.
It would be considered improper for a judge to help arrange such an agreement, and Blane says he was not involved in it. But his letter angrily condemns McCrorey for breaking the pact, and it assures the other jurors that McCrorey's change of heart will not affect Flores' conviction. "Mr. McCrorey's statements to the press may have made front-page headline news, gained him his 15 minutes of fame, sold a few more papers for the Des Moines Register, and fanned the flames of debate over the verdict, but (they) have absolutely no legal significance," he wrote.
Blane said he wished he could punish the jury chief: "Mr. McCrorey may now have belatedly salved his own conscience with his disclosures, which he apparently has a right to do, but he should be ashamed of what he has done to the rest of you. He should live the rest of his life with the knowledge that he has violated your trust and that his word is no good."
Wellman, who is representing Flores in his appeal, said he had not received a copy of the letter. But based upon large portions read to him, Wellman called it an improper attack on a "courageous man." "His criticism of Mr. McCrorey I believe is uncalled for," Wellman said. "I don't know why this judge or any judge or any jurors would want to hide behind a veil of secrecy ... I think to encourage secrecy in this type of governmental proceeding is unfortunate and a good deal misguided."
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