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Juror oath oversight leads to tossed conviction

Posted Jan 14, 2013 8:46 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A defendant who was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion is entitled to a new trial because the jurors weren’t sworn in before the trial began, a Michigan appeals court has ruled.

The Court of Appeals of Michigan has overturned the conviction of David Lee Allan, who was convicted in a scheme to extort money from a man who had sex with Allan’s daughter, Michigan Live reports. Allan was accused of threatening to accuse the man of rape unless he paid up. Allan was sentenced in July 2011 to 10 to 20 years in prison.

State law requires jurors to take an oath to justly decide the case and render a true verdict based only on the evidence, according to the Jan. 10 opinion. The failure to swear in the jurors amounted to plain error. “We conclude that the trial court's failure to administer the oath to the jury seriously affected the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of the judicial proceedings,” the court said. “Administration of the oath was necessary to protect defendant's fundamental right to a trial by an impartial jury.”

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