Hello welcome to this edition of the JACPA Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the interesting media reports about the suspended New York lawyer who failed to disclose on voir dire in a federal criminal case that she was a suspended lawyer (and had been denied reinstatement) and her prior criminal history in order to be picked for a jury which convicted the defendants (two of whom were lawyers), of a tax evasion scheme.
According to the media reports, the suspended lawyer, Catherine Conrad, was identified as Juror #1 on a jury panel that convicted two lawyers and others of multiple counts of felony tax evasion and other criminal charges. The case is United States v. Daugerdas et. al, S3 09 Cr 581 (WHP). She reportedly failed to advise prosecutors and defense lawyers (and the judge) that she had a criminal history, was suspended from practice in New York for problems associated with severe alcoholism, and that her husband was a convicted felon who served seven years behind bars in New Jersey.
After the verdict, the lawyers representing one of the convicted defendants filed a motion for a new trial claiming that they had discovered the suspended lawyer/juror had lied about her identity; however, prosecutors argued that Theresa Trzaskoma, a lawyer representing one of the defendants, knew about the lawyer’s identity within two hours of the start of jury deliberations on May 12, 2011 and that she shared her concerns with other employees of the same law firm. The prosecutors argued that this constitutes a waiver of any right to request a new trial.
Trzaskoma said in her testimony she awoke on the morning of May 12, 2011 wondering why the juror (who did not disclose a lawyer), sent a note to the judge asking questions about respondeat superior and vicarious liability. Trzaskoma then began an investigation with the help of a paralegal and learned from Westlaw that the juror had the same last name as a suspended New York lawyer. She sent an e-mail saying, “OK, unless Conrad totally lied about her highest level of education, it can’t be the same person as the suspended lawyer. But let’s keep a little dossier on her.”
In another e-mail, Trzaskoma said, “Jesus, I do think it’s her” but she stated at a hearing that there was confusion regarding the lawyer’s real identity and that she and her colleagues simply could not believe she was the same person as the suspended attorney since the possibility “was just so far out there, so remote” that they dismissed it.
According to reports; however, the fact section of the memorandum supporting the motion for a new trial failed to mention either the suspicions or the investigation. The motion was also filed only after the lead prosecutor disclosed to the judge he had received a post-trial note from the suspended lawyer/juror stating, “KUDOS to you and your team.” When questioned, Trzaskoma expressed “regret” for not including the investigation and her suspicions in the memorandum and stated “I regret the brief conveyed the impression it had never occurred to us before”; however, she continued to claim that she did not have enough information at trial.
The judge reminded Trzaskoma that on May 16, 2011, the third day of deliberations, he had excused one juror for medical reasons, seated an alternate, and then instructed the panel to start the deliberations again and asked “(d)uring that entire episode, did you ever revisit the question of Juror #1 and the possibility that she might be someone other than who she said she was?” the judge asked. She answered “I did not. I genuinely believed that Juror #1 was who she said she was.”
The suspended lawyer/juror also apparently also behaved erratically at a December 20, 2011 hearing in which the judge said she would be subpoenaed to testify at the February 15, 2012 hearing. “I reject it and you’re going to have to arrest me because nothing is going to change,” she stated at the hearing. “They’re fricken crooks and they should be in jail and you know that. Good.” The suspended lawyer/juror called the judge’s chambers at 7:52 a.m. on February 15, telling a judge’s deputy, “I will not be coming and I will not testify.” Shortly after the February 15, 2012 hearing began at 9:30 a.m., the judge issued a warrant for her arrest.
The suspended lawyer/juror was then taken into custody at her Bronxville home on February 15, 2012 by U.S. marshals and, after she was led into the courtroom, the judge instructed her court-appointed lawyer to sit in the jury box as close as possible to the witness stand to keep her on track. She invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify and the judge then granted her “use immunity” for the testimony which prevents the prosecution from using her testimony or any evidence derived from the testimony against her in any subsequent proceedings.
The judge asked the suspended lawyer/juror why she perjured herself when she answered the voir dire questions. She responded that, although she was unemployed, it was not for the money; however, she missed the dynamics of the courtroom. According to the Daily News she also said “I thought I would seem more juror-marketable”.
Bottom line: This is a somewhat bizarre story and possibly the most bizarre/interesting part of this story is that someone actually wanted to be on a jury (and lied to get on it).
Be careful out there!
As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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