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United States v. Ventura

United States District Court, Second Circuit

January 21, 2014



JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge.

On December 3, 2013, Defendant Kevin Ventura was convicted by a jury on all counts of a five-count indictment charging him with participation in three murders. After the verdict, the Court received a letter dated December 8, 2013, in which a juror expressed a personal fear for the juror's safety. The Court proposed to the parties that the Court send a letter to the juror assuring the juror that there was no reason to fear for the juror's safety. The defendant, however, has asked the Court to recall the juror and examine the juror as to whether, contrary to the juror's assurances during trial, the juror harbored any bias against the defendant or failed to accord the defendant the presumption of innocence to which the defendant was entitled. For the reasons explained below, the defendant's application for a post-verdict examination of the juror is denied.


The defendant was charged in a five-count indictment with three counts of using, carrying, and possessing a firearm in connection with a marijuana distribution conspiracy and a federal crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(j) & 2; with one substantive count of committing murder for hire in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1958 and 2; and with one count of conspiracy to commit murder for hire in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958. On December 3, 2013, following a three-week jury trial, the defendant was convicted on all counts.

The government made no request for an anonymous jury, and during voir dire, all jurors were asked in open court and in the presence of the defendant to state their full names and give various information about their lives and backgrounds. All jurors were asked whether they would accept that the defendant was presumed to be innocent and that the defendant could not be found guilty unless the jury unanimously decided that the evidence proved the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. All of the jurors agreed that they would accept these principles, and all of the jurors denied that they were biased against the defendant or the government. At the end of the examination of each juror, and after the general nature of the charges had been described, each juror swore individually that there was no reason that the juror could not be a fair and impartial juror.

On December 3, 2013, after approximately two days of deliberation, the foreperson delivered the jury's verdict in open court. In accordance with the Court's practice, each of the jurors had personally signed the verdict form. The Court then polled each of the twelve jurors individually and by name, and each juror affirmed the verdict.

On December 8, 2013, the Court received the following letter from one of the jurors:

Dear Honorable Judge Koeltl:
I recently sat as a juror... in the matter of United States of America v. Kevin Ventura, 09 cr 1015 (JGK), commencing on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 through Tuesday, December 3, 2013. Jury duty was a great learning experience for me, from crimes that people commit to how our judicial system works.
I would like to bring up a particular aspect of my experience regarding the juror selection process that I did not completely understand, nor appreciate. In your courtroom, 12B, there sat a number of potential jurors, nervously waiting to answer the questions on the Individual Questions for Jurors hand out. This two-page document, with twenty-three questions, was quite comprehensive and provides a very clear picture of one's background, personal information (our names, where we live and work), experiences and interests.
During this process, the defense lawyers, the defendant, along with the prosecution, were furiously taking notes as each potential juror responded. I completely support that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, along with the defendant being tried by a jury of his peers. Where I am struggling is the fact that we were referred to by name, and that the defendant was allowed to hear and take notes to the responses of the Individual Questions for Jurors.
If I am not mistaken, I do not recall that we were informed that the defendant was present prior to answering the questions. My apologies if we were informed, however, most importantly, he was present during our responses. In addition, after the verdict was read, and we needed to respond individually, we were referred to by name as opposed to by jury number.
Now that the trial is over, I thank you for the experience, however, I have to say, I fear for my safety, and am ...

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