GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A defense attorney for one of the men convicted of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer accused a juror of entering the trial with mind made up, but court records show a court investigation could not find any evidence of misconduct.
On Tuesday, a jury found Barry Croft and Adam Fox guilty of federal conspiracy and weapons charges in to the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that was busted in October 2020. It was a retrial for the men after the first trial ended in April with a hung jury.
Shortly after the trial got underway earlier this month, an accusation surfaced that a juror told a person identified as a co-worker that the juror had already decided Fox and Croft were guilty, and “would make sure that the defendants were found guilty,” according to court documents unsealed Wednesday.
The court was made aware of the alleged statement by Croft’s attorney Joshua Blanchard the day after the trial began Aug. 10. Rather than delay the retrial, testimony proceeded with the juror still participating while the court’s jury clerk investigated the allegations.
According to the unsealed court brief, the jury clerk called the person who alerted Blanchard to the conversation. The jury clerk told the court that “the information was different in several material aspects” from what Blanchard had passed along. Specifically, the jury clerk found the co-worker had not directly talked with nor heard anything from the juror.
“The caller was simply reporting a secondhand report from someone else about what that other person reportedly heard from the subject Juror,” the court brief reads in part. “Moreover, the jury clerk was unable to confirm the report with the other coworker because that coworker had reportedly expressed a desire not to speak or otherwise be identified, and the person who did call refused to identify the person.”
The court passed on the information to the prosecutor and both defense attorneys on Aug. 11.
The juror was called to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker’s chambers after testimony for more questions but none of the attorneys, including Blanchard and Fox’s attorney Christopher Gibbons, were present. Blanchard and Gibbons objected.
“Attorney Blanchard also expressed a concern that the subject Juror was somehow manipulating the jury during trial to ensure an allegedly desired outcome. Attorney Blanchard asked that the entirety of the jury be questioned on the matter with the parties present, or that the Court declare a mistrial,” the court brief reads.
The court disagreed. Blanchard filed an objection, arguing the court’s decision violated Croft’s rights. The juror in question was eventually interviewed and denied making the statements:
“The subject Juror’s behavior during trial buttresses this conclusion,” wrote the court. “Interactions with other jurors, to the extent court personnel can observe it, evince no hushed whispers or other indicia of a desire to manipulate. And the Juror’s behavior in the jury box is entirely inconsistent with someone who has a made a predetermined decision to find the defendants guilty. The Juror has consistently been attentive and engaged during both the government’s presentations and each defendant’s cross.
“The Juror has taken notes when defense counsel have made what were, in the Court’s mind, especially good points, or broke new ground—and even when in the Court’s view the points were not particularly strong,” the court continued.
The brief goes on to call the original reports of the jurors alleged statements about their predetermination of the case as double hearsay:
“…The reporting individual did not hear any statements from the subject Juror and did not even know personally if the Juror was on the case,” it says. “And the coworker who allegedly did hear the remarks is unidentified and unwilling to be identified or to speak with the Court’s jury clerk. Nor would the reporting caller identify this person.”
With that, the case moved forward, ending in Tuesday’s convictions.
Both Blanchard and Gibbons declined to talk specifics of the juror allegation following Tuesday’s verdict, including whether that decision may be part of potential appeals for Croft and Fox, who face up to life in prison at sentencing.