CINCINNATI (CN) – A judge’s decision to pick up a juror who had missed her bus and give her a ride to the murder trial did not deprive the defendant of a fair trial, the 6th Circuit ruled.
“While we think it odd, unwise, and maybe even improper, for the trial judge to have given the juror a ride,” the appellate court wrote, “the Ohio Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply federal law in holding that Johnson still received a fair trial.”
The court refused to overturn the conviction and sentence of Rayshawn Johnson, who beat a woman to death with a baseball bat in 1997.
Johnson accused Judge Ruehlman of judicial misconduct after the defendant saw the judge giving a female juror a lift in his car. Ruehlman explained that the juror had been alone in the downtown area, and he had offered her a ride because it was about to rain. He claimed he stopped his car and told the juror, “Get in, and we won’t talk about the case.”
At the defense counsel’s request, Ruehlman called the juror into his chamber and asked her if they had talked about the case.
“No, not at all,” the juror insisted.
After letting defense attorneys pepper the juror with questions, Ruehlman denied their request to have her excused from trial.
Johnson was sentenced to death for aggravated murder, burglary and other crimes. The appeals court affirmed his conviction and sentence.