The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Will Juror Misconduct Give 'Zoloft Rapist' New Trial?

Who are these people that lie (or omit pertinent information) in order to get on a jury? Seriously. Who wants to spend weeks on a jury hearing horrible acts by the lowest forms of humanity, all the while possibly sequestered from society?

Well, apparently there were two of these people in the 'Zoloft Rapist' case that we've been keeping an eye on, reports the Los Angeles Times. For those unfamiliar with the back story, Det. Anthony Orban was recently convicted of raping a woman after a day-long bender. He pled insanity due to a blackout caused by his sudden resumption of high dosage Zoloft. The jury didn't buy it.

However, instead of sentencing, the lawyers in the case are going to be sitting though a juror misconduct hearing as well as numerous bitter hearings about whether or not to order a new trial.

Who were the allegedly naughty jurors? The less egregious omission came from a female juror that had previously been a victim of domestic violence. The defense attorney had previously asked if any of the potential jurors had ever been a victim of a crime. She said nothing.

The other less than forthcoming juror was a woman that was very familiar with Zoloft. During deliberations, she reportedly stated that she had previously taken Zoloft and "it didn't make her crazy." Another juror reported the two acts of misconduct to the defense attorney's office.

Prior to any jury trial, there is a process called voir dire. It is the part of jury selection where the two sides can question potential jurors for signs of bias. For example, in a sexual assault case, they might ask the jurors if they have ever been a victim in a similar situation. The thought is that prior victims are less likely to be able to be impartial.

When a juror lies or omits pertinent background information, it's presumed that there was prejudice against the defendant. The solution is a juror misconduct hearing. The judge, and eventually the attorneys, will question her to determine whether the allegations were true and to determine whether the defendant obtained a fair trial.

The judge has already tentatively ruled that the omitted domestic violence incident was not an issue, though he will allow the attorneys to file briefs on the matter for further argument. On the other hand, the 'Zoloft' juror will have to come back to court on September 14 for a little meeting with the judge.

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