Juror misconduct in Fresno County led to a mistrial

FRESNO, Calif.

Chris Washington, 30, was convicted earlier this year of second degree murder. Since he used a gun, Washington was eligible to spend 40 years to life in prison.

Judge Jonathon Conklin said what the juror did was clearly outside the instructions he handed out. And it wasn't anyone who served on the panel that reported the conduct, but an alert deputy.

A deputy cleaning up a jury room at the end of a murder trial made the discovery. While collecting notes to be shredded, she found printouts from Wikipedia and nolo.com, describing the difference between second degree murder and manslaughter.

Jurors are ordered to only consider jury instructions and the evidence in the case. But, the judge says the jury foreman collected additional research from the internet during deliberations.

Superior Court Judge, Jonathan Conklin said, "We tell jurors time and time again not to go to the internet and this case is a textbook example of why. The internet is a morass of misinformation. And it is wrong."

After interviewing several jurors in the case, the judge said he believed the foreman was only attempting to help another juror, by trying to clarify the difference between the two charges. However, it was unacceptable.

"I think this juror went out to get information to support his argument," said Judge Conklin. "And use that information and brought that into the jury, and it was anything but inadvertent so it wasn't from a malice perspective but it was wrong."

After the hearing, deputy district attorney, Mike Frye told Action News, "This is a minor setback. We have a strong case and we will go forward and retry it if necessary."

After two days of consideration, the jury convicted Chris Washington of shooting and killing Kay Daniels at an apartment complex in Clovis last year.

Washington's attorney says the conduct may have changed the charges his client was convicted on, since at least one juror was wavering.

Defense attorney, Michael Aed said, "It's clear from the deliberation process that the jury was divided at least in some respects as to whether it was murder or manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter."

Police say the shooting was the result of an argument, but there were no witnesses during the trial that admitted to witnessing the murder.

Defense attorneys say they are open to a plea agreement if one is offered. A hearing to set a new trial date is set for next month.

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