An angry U.S. District Chief Judge Bruce S. Jenkins denied a motion Wednesday for a new trial in the Singer-Swapp case, chewing out the defense for allowing matters about a juror's alleged out-of-court contacts to become public.
The motion for a new trial and an evidentiary hearing was filed by John Bucher, attorney for Addam Swapp. A week and a half ago, Swapp was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in the bombing of the LDS chapel in Marion, Summit County, and the 13-day standoff and the shooting that ended it.Other members of the Singer- Swapp families who were convicted got sentences ranging from 5 to 10 years.
Wednesday's hearing was on a renewed motion for a new trial. Bucher had withdrawn the motion shortly before the sentencing. He withdrew it when Jenkins called a juror into his chambers and examined him about allegations raised by the defense.
"Quite candidly, the defendant has no more information than he had when this motion was withdrawn some days ago," Bucher said.
Among allegations, according to a letter from Addam Swapp to reporters, were the possibility that a juror had researched a legal question on his own and had asked a police officer for an opinion.
"I believe an evidentiary hearing should be had to allow me to call them (potential testifiers) to the stand, to interrogate them," Bucher said.
Jenkins said the questions were brought to his attention by way of a letter sent to him and marked confidential, with copies to all lawyers in the case. He then made an inquiry in his chambers, taking testimony under oath, Jenkins said. The judge said he asked whether any of the lawyers had more suggestions about what he should ask and none did. Bucher then withdrew his original motion, stating it had no foundation.
"Except for the most extraordinary circumstances, jury verdicts spoken in the courtroom . . . are final. Society has an interest in their finality," Jenkins said.
"No one, no one, no one, not even the court, may inquire into the jury process . . . that's been true for hundreds of years. Matters of this kind have to be brought to an end."
Jenkins added that jurors shouldn't be harassed by the court or "others who have absolutely no business inquiring into the mental process of the jurors." He said the jury took an oath to obey the court's instructions. He only inquired into the matter out of an abundance of caution, he said.
"Jurors are entitled to their privacy," Jenkins said. "The public's entitled to stability and finality." He said nobody should be allowed to "run around contacting jurors" on a fishing expedition.
Jenkins said that after his inquiry he asked if any of the lawyers would have a problem with keeping the matter confidential and nobody did. He then "fully assumed that the matter was to be treated by the parties in confidence."