The sentencing of a former Marine convicted of fatally stabbing another Marine during a fight in 2012 was abruptly delayed Friday when the defense attorney learned that two D.C. Superior Court jurors who heard the case during trial failed to disclose criminal run-ins.
Michael Poth, 22, was convicted by a jury in December of voluntary manslaughter in the April 21, 2012, slaying of Philip Bushong, 23, outside a restaurant in Capitol Hill.
Poth was facing as much as 15 years and was scheduled to be sentenced Friday. But his attorney, Bernie Grimm, filed a request for a new trial in April on the grounds that two jurors who convicted Poth had not mentioned that they were involved in crimes.
One was convicted of a felony and is currently a registered sex offender; the other was the victim of a violent crime. Such details are often disclosed during the jury selection process.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman argued against the delay, saying that Grimm could have researched jurors’ backgrounds through online record checks during the trial. Liebman added that Grimm should have mentioned his concerns then instead of waiting until five months after the verdict was rendered.
Judge Russell F. Canan did not rule on holding another trial regarding jury misconduct but decided to delay Poth’s sentencing and hold a hearing at which the two jurors would be summoned to explain why they failed to disclose the information. That hearing is scheduled for July 11.
Criminal backgrounds of potential jurors have recently come to the attention of prosecutors and defense attorneys in the District, with many raising concerns about whether jurors answer such questions on their questionnaires honestly.
Under D.C. law, felons are disqualified from jury service for 10 years after the completion of their sentence, including probation or parole.
People called for jury duty in D.C. Superior Court fill out a form that includes questions about any criminal record. During the selection process, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge can ask the potential jurors about any knowledge they may have of the case or the defendants, witnesses or attorneys involved.
There was mixed reaction to news of the delay in Poth’s sentencing. His family hugged Grimm outside the courtroom as Poth was once again led back to the D.C. jail in shackles.
Bushong’s relatives bowed their heads. Bushong’s father, Michael, said he was “discouraged” by the delay and became emotional when he said that the date of the new hearing would have been his son’s birthday.