A Logan man's drunken driving conviction was set aside by the Utah Court of Appeals on grounds that a court bailiff had inappropriate contact with jurors during the November 1989 trial.
The appeals judges said "the court abused its discretion in concluding that the jury was not prejudiced by the improper contact."The misdemeanor case was remanded back to Logan's 1st Circuit Court, where a new trial for David Craig Carlsen, 41, has been set for Nov. 8.
The appeal arose after a conversation Cache County Deputy Sheriff James Meacham had with the four-person jury during a recess. Meacham apparently was asked to explain the difference between circuit and district court.
According to court records, Meacham explained that circuit court handles misdemeanors, while district court is for felony cases.
He further explained that the maximum sentence that could be handed down in a circuit court is one year in jail, whereas the minimum sentence in a district court - barring suspension of a sentence - is one year in prison.
Carlsen's trial attorney, Arden Lauritzen, said that after overhearing the conversation on the day of the trial, he moved for a mistrial because the possible sentence for Carlsen had been disclosed to the jury.
First Circuit Judge Clint B. Judkins ruled that Meacham's discussion, although improper, was harmless and denied the motion.
The jury later convicted Carlsen, who served 10 days in the Cache County Jail.
Meacham said at the time that he simply was answering a question and that he made no reference to the trial in progress.
However, the appeals court ruled Oct. 4 that Meacham's statements "went beyond a mere incidental, unintended and brief contact with a jury while the case was still under way."