BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Defense counsel for the convicted former attorney of pharmaceutical bad boy Martin Shkreli seized Friday on a juror’s newly disclosed misgivings about deliberations.
At a hearing held partly in open court this morning, U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said a member of the anonymous jury, identified only as Juror No. 6, called her office the day after they convicted Evan Greebel of securities and wire fraud conspiracies.
It was difficult for Matsumoto’s clerk, Vivek Tata, to understand the caller, the judge said. Nevertheless the juror seemed to say that he had wanted to look at more evidence but that other jurors had pressured into voting, saying they would have him removed.
Matsumoto called the juror to the courthouse Friday and questioned him in the jury room. Both parties, including Greebel, and a court reporter observed the inquiry, but the transcript is under seal.
Greebel’s jury began deliberations after the 10-week trial on the Friday before Christmas and returned their verdict the following Tuesday.
The 44-year-old faces up 20 years in prison after he was convicted of co-conspiring on a Ponzi-like scheme where Shkreli paid off investors in his fledgling hedge funds, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare, with funds from his pharmaceutical company called Retrophin.
Florida-based defense attorney seized on Friday’s jury revelations as justification to vacate Greebel’s convictions.
“If your honor feels the verdict was a product of coercion,” Dubin said, “it should be thrown out and set aside.”
Matsumoto noted in response that there are few exceptions to the guarantee that jury deliberations remain secret.
“No one has a right to know how a decision was reached by a jury or juror,” Matsumoto said.
Breaching this seal, Matsumoto added, requires evidence of jury bias “so extreme that almost by definition the jury trial right has been abridged.”
One example, Matsumoto said, would be if a jury “relied on racial stereotypes or animus” to convict a defendant. Matsumoto also highlighted various reports that did not meet the bar to conduct an inquiry, including reports of screaming, crying and even “chair throwing” in the jury room.
Matsumoto shot down Dubin’s request to question the juror himself. She determined she would conduct a “limited inquiry,” posing four yes-or-no questions to the juror, to determine whether anything egregious occurred during deliberations.
Was there physical violence or the threat of it?
Was there any outside influence or extraneous information?
Was the juror prevented from contacting the court during deliberations?
Had any juror made statements to convict based on Greebel’s race, sex or religion?
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alix Smith called the questioning a “fishing” expedition.
Dubin argued later: “The sanctity of this process does not come at the cost of Mr. Greebel’s rights.”
Wearing a light blue tie at Friday’s hearing, Greebel looked pale and solemn. Given the snowstorm that swept the region Thursday, many suits in the courtroom were paired with practical bad-weather boots.
After the hearing, Dubin told reporters his team intended to “speak to other jurors and find out what happened.”
“We think we have an obligation on behalf of Mr. Greebel to speak to them,” Dubin added.
For Dubin, Friday’s revelations only compound his questions about the jury’s impartiality. The attorney noted that, during the trial, another juror was excused for posting comments about the case to her Instagram account, and he said “multiple” jurors had read December media reports on Shkreli’s various forfeitures.
“When they take an oath … they need to take that oath seriously and abide by it,” Dubin said, encouraging other jurors to contact his team.
Dubin would not comment on a best-case scenario for the defense, but Friday’s inquiry could feed into an appeal.
Reed Brodsky, another lawyer for the defense, cited case law. saying, “if there’s juror misconduct, judges have the ability to throw out verdicts.”