A judge in Sydney, Australia reportedly declared a mistrial after a sheriff in the courtroom said he saw the female jury foreperson flirting with the defendant. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph says the woman was accused of “flicking her hair, smiling, raising an eyebrow and nodding in a potentially suggestive manner at the accused man.”
The Telegraph reports that the trial had gone on for nearly three weeks; the defendant was accused of trying to influence a witness in a 2012 armed robbery case, in which he was acquitted. The witness tampering case derailed when a sheriff sitting in back of the courtroom reported seeing the jury foreperson “gesturing” at the defendant and “making eyes” at him from the jury box, the Telegraph says. After the supposed eye-batting was reported to him, Judge Peter Berman discharged the juror and then the rest of the jury, ruling that the case will have to be heard anew. From the Telegraph:
Judge Berman told the court: “Discharging a juror for flirtatious behaviour is fortunately not something that happens all that often.”
Judge Berman told the remaining panel members: “I heard some evidence … about some subtle communication going from the juror to the accused. No one is suggesting that the accused was responding.”
One witness “described it as flirtatious behaviour”, Judge Berman told the panel.
“I was satisfied that there was a real risk that the juror couldn’t do her job impartially,” he said.
It does seem curious that no one else in the courtroom—the prosecution, say—spotted this supposed eyeball hanky-panky, given that juries do tend to sit right up front. Allegations of juror flirting are pretty rare overall, thought not unheard-of: John Edwards was accused of exchanging saucy glances with a jury alternate during his 2012 trial over whether he’d used campaign funds to cover up his affair. The alternate denied any flirting, although several reporters in the courtroom said they’d seen it.
Image via Shutterstock