A D.C. Superior Court judge has ruled that one of two jurors accused of drinking alcohol during deliberations in a rape trial may have engaged in "inappropriate behavior," but that there is significant evidence to hold her in contempt of court. A mistrial was declared in the rape case last month.
Judge Fred B. Ugast releaased the juror, Juanita Ross, after a hearing Wednesday at which several other jurors testified they saw Ross drinking a liquid they suspected was whiskey. Ugast ruled, however, that the testimony did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ross had consumed alcohol inside the jury room while deliberations were going on.
Ugast said that while the evidence against Ross did not amount to criminal contempt, he said it still indicated "flagrant disregard" for the responsibilities of a juror.
The issue arose when the jury foreman in the two-week-long rape trial sent a note to Ugast on April 30, saying the jury could not reach a verdict "unless two jurors are replaced" and indicating there was a "drinking problem." "
Subsequently, several jurors said Ross and another juror, Virginia Starks, had been secretly pouring drinks under the jury table, were boisterous and refused to vote on a verdict.
Ugast declared a mistrial an d ordered both Ross and Starks to show cause why they should not be held in contempt. Starks' contempt hearing is scheduled for June 11.
In the meantime, her attorney has declared that Starks does not drink at all and feels she is being punished for holding out for an acquittal in the rape trial.