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What is Jury Tampering?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Jury tampering is a criminal offense characterized by attempts to influence members of a jury by means other than evidence and arguments presented in court. Jurors themselves can also be charged if they participate in jury tampering and do not report it. The result of jury tampering can be a false verdict or a mistrial, both of which are costly for the legal system and delay justice in the case at hand.

There are numerous ways that people can try to influence jurors. These include bribes, threats, and unauthorized communications. A not uncommon situation is one where lawyers involved in a case have a conversation about the case in the presence of a juror, not realizing that the juror is present. Juror tampering can come from attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, and members of the public with an interest in the case. For example, if the family member of someone accused of murder plants notes in a courthouse claiming that the defendant is innocent, this is jury tampering.

Courthouses use several methods to reduce the risk of juror tampering. Jurors are required to wear identifying badges so that people know not to talk about the case around them. In addition, jurors may be sequestered during a trial if there are concerns that it will be hard to avoid influence. Jurors are also discouraged from talking to each other about the case during the trial and the bailiff is charged with keeping an eye on the jury and noting any unusual activity involving jurors.

If a juror is approached by someone who is attempting to engage in juror tampering or has reason to believe that another juror is involved in tampering, it must be reported. Reports are submitted to the bailiff, who contacts the judge to discuss the matter. Jurors are also required to turn over any materials sent to them in an attempt to influence opinion, such as notes, voicemails, and bribes.

Juror tampering is a considerable concern for the legal system. The goal of holding a trial is to provide people with a fair, honest, and complete hearing with a jury that decides the case on the basis of information presented in court. If jurors are tampered with and this is not identified in time, this will have an influence on the verdict that could result in a miscarriage of justice. Penalties for jury tampering vary, depending on the specifics of the offense.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Moldova — On Jul 19, 2011

@Crispety - I know that jury tampering does happen, but so does witness tampering. Sometimes you have people that are going to testify in a criminal trial that suddenly are killed and are unable to testify.

This is also a real problem that has to be addressed. You may also have a witness try to change their story like in the Casey Anthony trial. While there was no eyewitness testimony in the trial, the mother of Casey Anthony was a prosecution witness that later changed her story.

She took that blame for the searches found on the computer and her testimony was later impeached because the prosecutors proved that she was at work when those searches were conducted. Although her testimony was proven false, this caused a level of reasonable doubt for the jury that caused the not guilty verdict to ensue.

Sometimes people testifying can also become unreliable and can be influenced as well. Many believe that the mother changed her story in order to protect her daughter from the death penalty.

By Crispety — On Jul 19, 2011

@Subway11 - I think that it is terrible that people resort to criminal tampering like that. This really makes the reasons for a sequestered jury that more important because when a jury is sequestered they are usually cut off from outside influences.

I think that trials should have a time limit because it is difficult to expect people to focus on a trial that takes months. My fear is that people serving on long trials might just make a quick ruling without considering all the evidence because they just want to go home.

They could convict someone without consideration of the evidence or let someone off that most people believe are guilty. For example, if you look at a high profile case like that of Casey Anthony, you will see that polls conducted after the verdict have shown that about 90% of the public disagree with this verdict and many people believe that the jury did not take the time to go through the evidence or ask any questions.

Some have even suggested that it is possible that the jury’s verdict was a result of jury tampering. Who knows, but this high profile case and many others like it make you wonder if any jury tampering could have occurred because the verdict does not add up to a lot of people.

By subway11 — On Jul 19, 2011

@Mutsy - I think that when we have a jury verdict that we don’t understand we always assume that there also must have been a jury tampering case because the verdict is so illogical.

There was a case against Gene Gotti in which there was a hung jury twice and there was evidence of jury tampering. In fact, a broker who had a member of the jury work in his office tried to offer the jury member a new BMW for inside information on what the jury was contemplating.

The broker was charged with jury tampering and now faces a $200,000 fine and up to five years in prison. People are caught in cases like this but it does take some time to prove.

By mutsy — On Jul 18, 2011

@SZapper - I think that criminal cases are difficult to try and having a sequestered jury is really one of the few ways that a criminal defendant can have a fair trial. If you think about how many criminal cases are tried in the media?

A defendant can only get a fair trial with a sequestered jury because the jury verdict should not be influenced by media reports. The verdict that the jury delivers should be based on the evidence in the case.

I realize that because a jury is sequestered that there is higher probability of potential criminal tampering because a lot of these jurors want to go home and go on with their lives, but I think that that is a risk that we will have to take. You are supposed to be judged by a jury of one's peers.

By BabaB — On Jul 17, 2011

I recently read about a case of jury tampering. Two defendants charged in a drug conspiracy case, were co-defendants in the same trial. One of the defendant's friends bribed a juror. He got off with a hung jury. But the other guy was convicted by the same jury.

The lawyer for the man who was convicted, tried to get a new trial set. He wasn't successful because it was determined that the jury tampering didn't affect the determination of guilt or innocence of the man who was convicted. And the defendant, who arranged the bribe, got off "scot-free."

By Misscoco — On Jul 17, 2011

Jury tampering is a real problem for the justice system. I have served on two juries and know that it is sometimes difficult for jury members to not talk about the case until the jury is sent in for deliberation. Jurors all have to support each other so tampering won't happen.

Overt attempts by the family of the defendant, attorneys, or just anyone interested in the outcome of the trial do happen. Threats, bribes, or messages to a jury member stops the wheels of justice.

I think that sequestering jurors should only be used in the high profile criminal cases. If the legal system makes things too difficult for jurors, more and more of those called will find a way to avoid serving. We need to maintain a good pool of honest cooperative people to serve on our juries.

By BambooForest — On Jul 17, 2011

@hyrax53- Jury tampering like that must be especially difficult for high profile cases. These days, even if the juror says nothing, you can go onto any news site or social media network and everyone is buzzing about things which those jurors are not even supposed to mention; and even if they don't, I can't imagine that hearing thousands of other opinions doesn't have some sort of effect on a person.

By hyrax53 — On Jul 16, 2011

There have been a lot of issues in recent years regarding jury tampering and the internet. Apparently, even though you are not supposed to talk about it with anyone, jurors have had issues of talking about cases on Facebook or Twitter, destroying privacy about sensitive issues, which is seen as a form of tampering, even if sometimes inadvertent. The internet really does complicate privacy in everything, and it's unfortunate that this includes justice for individuals.

By Monika — On Jul 15, 2011

@SZapper - Being part of a sequestered jury does seem like it would be awfully torturous. Luckily juries aren't really sequestered all that often.

I think jury tampering happens a lot though. I know in the city I used to live in, a lot of criminals would go free because of witness tampering. I'm sure jury tampering also happened a lot, which is unfortunate. If you can't get anyone on the witness stand and the jury has been tampered with it's pretty difficult to get a fair trial.

By SZapper — On Jul 15, 2011

I understand jury tampering is a huge problem to getting the cased tried in accordance with the law. However, I think sequestering the jury is just going a little too far.

Some criminal cases take months! It seems deeply unfair to expect a group of people to basically have no contact with the outside world for that long. They're already missing time at work and then to be also sequestered? This almost seems like a punishment or something!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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