Jury tampering is a criminal offense characterized by attempts to influence members of a jury by means other than evidence and arguments presented in court. Jurors themselves can also be charged if they participate in jury tampering and do not report it. The result of jury tampering can be a false verdict or a mistrial, both of which are costly for the legal system and delay justice in the case at hand.
There are numerous ways that people can try to influence jurors. These include bribes, threats, and unauthorized communications. A not uncommon situation is one where lawyers involved in a case have a conversation about the case in the presence of a juror, not realizing that the juror is present. Juror tampering can come from attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, and members of the public with an interest in the case. For example, if the family member of someone accused of murder plants notes in a courthouse claiming that the defendant is innocent, this is jury tampering.
Courthouses use several methods to reduce the risk of juror tampering. Jurors are required to wear identifying badges so that people know not to talk about the case around them. In addition, jurors may be sequestered during a trial if there are concerns that it will be hard to avoid influence. Jurors are also discouraged from talking to each other about the case during the trial and the bailiff is charged with keeping an eye on the jury and noting any unusual activity involving jurors.
If a juror is approached by someone who is attempting to engage in juror tampering or has reason to believe that another juror is involved in tampering, it must be reported. Reports are submitted to the bailiff, who contacts the judge to discuss the matter. Jurors are also required to turn over any materials sent to them in an attempt to influence opinion, such as notes, voicemails, and bribes.
Juror tampering is a considerable concern for the legal system. The goal of holding a trial is to provide people with a fair, honest, and complete hearing with a jury that decides the case on the basis of information presented in court. If jurors are tampered with and this is not identified in time, this will have an influence on the verdict that could result in a miscarriage of justice. Penalties for jury tampering vary, depending on the specifics of the offense.