GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan says court testimony shows a Grand Rapids Police Department detective and a sitting juror texted each other during deliberations in a criminal trial.

The ACLU says it happened on Dec. 4, 2019 during a trial involving a suspect accused of possessing drugs with the intent to distribute.

During the deliberations in the criminal trial, Detective Robert Zabriskie and the sitting juror texted about another juror who allegedly didn’t want to vote guilty, the ACLU said.

According to court testimony, Zabriskie said he was “close friends” with the juror who he was texting with.

Zabriskie, who has been with GRPD for 24 years, texted the juror that “we need good people to show up and say they don’t have a preconceived notions about guilt or innocence, and then, find the defendant guilty. Duh,” according to the ACLU.

The organization said Zabriskie also introduced race into the texting exchange after the sitting juror commented about the dissenting juror being “obnoxious” and emotional. Zabriskie then texted, “is this a black lady?”

The ACLU says Zabriskie then advocated for the dissenting juror, who was Black, to be expelled from the trial.

In his testimony, Zabriskie said he didn’t work on the case and didn’t know any facts of the case.

Zabriskie informed the prosecutor about the text message exchange. In his testimony, he said his friend initially texted that jury duty sucks, but he thought “she was hypothetically talking.” But then the friend expressed concerns about the Black juror and wasn’t sure what to do.

The prosecutor told the court about the exchanged, which resulted in a mistrial. The trial is expected to be retired, according to the ACLU.

Thursday, the ACLU emailed the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the Grand Rapids Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, calling for them to investigate the incident and recommend further action.

“It is a serious threat to our legal system for an active member of law enforcement to directly communicate with a sitting juror about a case, let alone during deliberations,” said Elaine Lewis, ACLU of Michigan attorney in a news release. “There is no excuse for this abuse of power and lack of respect for the sworn oath of a juror whose duties and deliberation are sacrosanct.”

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker says the ACLU contacted his office, saying they need to investigate. Becker says his office already did.

“They (ACLU) called me to say this letter is coming out, never to disclose that they are going to throw my office under the bus. You obviously had my number to call me and let me know that this letter was coming out. How do you not call me to check your facts?,” Becker said in response to the ACLU.

“To throw this out there is either incompetence, or they have an agenda,” Becker added. 

GRPD tells News 8 ACLU’s assertion of the incident not being investigated is not true. GRPD says both a thorough internal review and a criminal investigation were launched in connection to the incident.

“The criminal investigation was conducted by Michigan State Police and reviewed by the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office and found no evidence of jury tampering. The IAU (GRPD’s Interal Affairs Unit) review found Detective Zabriskie violated department policy. The city did issue disciplinary action as a result of the IAU review. The disciplinary action is a personnel matter and, as such, not appropriate for us to comment on further,” GRPD said in a statement to News 8.

The Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office says it couldn’t prove Zabriske intended to commit the crime of jury tampering. Factors in the conclusion include: The juror initiated the conversation, Zabriske had no interest or involvement in the case and they did not talk about facts of the case.

>>Inside The Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office investigation

The prosecutor’s office also said in its conclusion that Zabriske contacted the assistant prosecutor when he realized his contact with the juror could possibly interfere.

News 8 made several attempts in contacting the detective for comment but have not heard back.