2nd Circuit Says Juror’s |Lies Prompt New Trial

     (CN) – A former broker convicted of perpetrating a massive tax fraud scheme is entitled to a new trial because of the “breathtaking” lies one juror told to conceal her background during jury selection, the Second Circuit ruled.
     David Parse, a former broker with Deutsche Bank, was convicted in 2011 of playing a role in the largest criminal tax scheme in history.
     The scheme, led by Dallas attorney Paul Daugerdas, created bogus tax shelters between 1994 and 2004 for about 1,000 wealthy clients. The losses attributed to these loses cost the U.S. Treasury $92 million, the federal government claimed.
     A jury found Parse guilty of executing the transactions that established the shelters, and convicted him of mail fraud. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
     But Parse and his co-defendants soon moved for a new trial because one of the jurors – Catherine M. Conrad – had lied and concealed important information about her background during voir dire.
     Conrad told the court that her highest level of education was a Bachelors in English Literature, when in fact she had a law degree, and was admitted to practice law in New York until her law license was suspended. At the time of trial, Conrad was the subject of two complaints of professional misconduct, and had failed to cooperate with a disciplinary committee investigation.
     In addition, Conrad was on probation during voir dire — and the entirety of the trial — after pleading guilty to shoplifting two years earlier. Conrad also failed to inform the court that her husband is a career criminal who served a seven-year sentence in state prison.
     She also lied to the court about her current address in order to collect additional travel expenses as a juror.
     Conrad’s true background was discovered after she sent a two-page letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office praising their performance at trial, but lamenting the acquittal of Parse on several counts. Defense counsel was surprised by the tone of the letter, which was in “sharp contrast” to the quiet, head-down image Conrad had projected through the trial.
     On the government’s motion, Conrad was granted immunity, and admitted to the court that she lied to make herself more marketable as a juror. According to the court documents, she acknowledged that she made a conscious choice to perjure herself and created a false personal profile that she thought would make an attractive juror.
     At the hearing, Conrad repeatedly called defendants “crooks,” and reasoned that the “defense counsel would be wild to have me” if it had known her true background because “crooks” would want “crooks” on the jury.
     Describing her lies as “breathtaking,” the court concluded that Conrad was a “pathological liar and utterly untrustworthy,” and “actually biased against defendants.”
     “Conrad’s own statements and demeanor belie her claim of impartiality. Her animus toward lawyers – like defendants here – was evident not only in her comment that most attorneys are criminals but also in her attitude at the evidentiary hearing. Her comment that all attorneys are ‘crooks’ was a direct statement of bias against the defendants. Conrad’s statement can only be understood as reflecting a pre-existing bias against lawyers,” the court found.
     However, the court also found that Parse’s attorneys knew Conrad might have been lying about her background, and knowingly decided not to bring it to the court’s attention.
     It therefore denied Parse a new trial on the ground that his counsel withheld important information from the court. Parse’s co-defendants were granted a new trial.
     But the Second Circuit found that Parse is entitled to a new trial despite his attorneys’ mistakes.
     “Virtually everything that came to light about Catherine M. Conrad, the suspended lawyer, was inconsistent with Conrad’s voir dire responses given under oath,” U.S. Circuit Judge Amalya Kearse said, writing for the three-judge panel.
     Emails show that Parse’s counsel asked a paralegal to conduct an Internet search on Conrad, and found that her name and address matched that of a suspended lawyer. But they dismissed the possibility, believing it “inconceivable” that Conrad would lie so extensively during voir dire, the panel said.
     “Although Parse’s attorneys of course could have asked the court to pose additional questions to Conrad, we conclude that their failure to do so, or otherwise to pursue additional information sufficient to reveal that Conrad had pervasively lied despite her oath, did not provide an appropriate basis for the court’s finding that they did in fact know the truth,” Kearse wrote.
     “In sum, to the extent that the district court ruled that Parse waived his right to trial before an impartial jury because his attorneys knew that Conrad had lied during voir dire, we conclude that that ruling rested on a clearly erroneous finding of fact,” she said.

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