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Case 3:07-cr-00289-M

Document 1061

Filed 11/04/2009

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS DALLAS DIVISION ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' '

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DONALD W. HILL (01) a/k/a “Don Hill” D’ANGELO LEE (02) SHEILA D. FARRINGTON (03) a/k/a “Sheila Farrington Hill” DARREN L. REAGAN (07) a/k/a “Dr. Darren L. Reagan” RICKEY E. ROBERTSON (10) a/k/a “Rick Robertson”

No. 3:07-CR-289-M

ORDER ON MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL Before the Court is the Motion for New Trial of Defendant Sheila Hill (“Hill”), in which she alternatively seeks an evidentiary hearing [Docket Entry #1044]. This Motion is based on three issues. The Court denies the Motion on two bases and defers its ruling on the third. Newspaper in Jury Room. Defendant Hill notes that on one occasion, a copy of a Dallas Morning News newspaper (dated Friday, August 21, 2009) was found in the jury room while it was being cleaned after the trial day. The Court had repeatedly instructed the jurors that they were not to read, listen to or view any news reports about the case. The Motion asserts that the presence of the paper in the jury room warrants additional investigation. On the morning of August 24, 2009, the Court was informed by its Court Security Officer that he had been told that a juror had brought the newspaper to the jury room to read only those portions of the newspaper that the jurors were permitted to read, and that no juror had read the other parts of the paper, and the Court communicated to counsel what it had been told. The August 21, 2009, edition of the newspaper contained a single article about this case that the Court showed to counsel for all Page 1 of 3

Case 3:07-cr-00289-M

Document 1061

Filed 11/04/2009

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parties during the Court’s consideration of the issue. That article factually reported events that had occurred during the trial, and did not report matters that were excluded from the jury. Consequently, there was no evidence of prejudice, even if the jurors had read the article. Defense counsel, on behalf of their clients, expressly stated that the Court should not conduct a further inquiry, although the Court offered to do so, and requested merely that the Court give an additional admonition to the jurors that they not access news about the case, which the Court did. The parties thus waived any objection based on the presence of the newspaper in the jury room. Based on all of these facts, the Court DENIES Defendant’s Motion for New Trial on this basis. Lee Declaration. A second issue raised in Defendant’s Motion for New Trial relies upon a Declaration of Defendant D’Angelo Lee. Lee states that an acquaintance of his informed him that while the trial was ongoing, a juror talked to him, and gave opinions, about this case. The Declaration of Mr. Lee is ambiguous and nonspecific, and reports rank hearsay from an unidentified person, about unidentified events and subjects allegedly discussed at an unidentified time and place. That is a wholly insufficient basis for the Court to conduct a further inquiry, let alone to grant a new trial. The Motion for New Trial is DENIED on this basis. Dallas Observer Article. The Motion for New Trial argues a third issue—that the same juror referenced in Mr. Lee’s Declaration gave an interview to Mr. Sam Merten, of the Dallas Observer (“Observer”), which was reported in the Observer on October 19, 2009. No affidavit or other admissible evidence on this issue was submitted to the Court. Assuming that the article accurately reports what the juror said,1 Hill argues that the conduct described constitutes jury misconduct. Unlike reported cases of alleged jury misconduct, the Court and the parties’

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On November 2, 2009, the Court requested the Observer to furnish any copy of the tape recording of the interview with the juror, so that the Court could verify what the juror said. Citing to some vague constitutional protection unknown to this Court, the Observer declined to produce the tape to the Court. Because of the Observer’s refusal to produce the tape, the Court cannot assess the accuracy of the story.

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Case 3:07-cr-00289-M

Document 1061

Filed 11/04/2009

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knowledge of the alleged misconduct in this case is limited to the contents of a newspaper article, which does not constitute admissible evidence and which is not sworn by anyone. Even were the Court to assume its accuracy, the Court cannot determine from the article that anything improper occurred. Although the Court concludes that the law does not mandate any further action by the Court in light of the absence of reliable evidence of misconduct, the Court will interview the quoted juror outside the presence of counsel, in the presence of a court reporter, to determine if there is evidence of conduct warranting further inquiry. On or before November 6, 2009, at five o’clock p.m., counsel for any party may submit for consideration by the Court questions they propose the Court ask the juror about the events allegedly described by the juror to the Observer. A copy of the transcript of the Court’s interview with the juror will be furnished to counsel. If the Court determines that a further evidentiary hearing is appropriate on this third issue, counsel will be so advised. No subpoenas may be issued by any party for any juror to appear at any hearing in this matter without the prior approval of the Court, on written motion. If a further evidentiary hearing is scheduled, it will be on a date after November 13, 2009. The November 13, 2009 hearing is a non-evidentiary hearing, limited to legal argument on postverdict Motions other than Hill’s Motion for New Trial. SO ORDERED. November 4, 2009.

_________________________________ BARBARA M. G. LYNN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS

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