Judge Roland Steinle told the attorneys late this afternoon that one of the jurors in Samuel Dieteman’s trial overheard at least three other jurors chatting about their opinions on the case, a revelation that could have serious consequences.
If true, it would mean the jurors broke an explicit rule — on the first day of testimony no less — to refrain from talking about the case with anyone (even each other) until all the evidence has been presented and they are asked to decide the verdict.
Steinle told the attorneys he would get to the bottom of the matter before testimony picks up again on Thursday morning. It’s possible the whole thing is a misunderstanding, but in the worst-case scenario, all three could be booted from the trial for gabbing about their opinions.
With just two extra people on the jury, the remaining pool wouldn’t have enough people left to reach a verdict. The result would be a mistrial.
The aftermath would be a major headache for everyone involved. The original jury selection took nearly seven weeks — partly because of some scheduling conflicts between the court and attorneys. Hundreds of people had to be questioned to find just 14 who knew so little about the headline-grabbing case that they could reach an unbiased opinion.
In the best scenario for Thursday, Steinle could find out that no damage was done and simply remind the jurors to keep their thoughts to themselves until the time is right.
Until then, it is anybody’s guess what will happen.