Jurors Don’t Often Go to Jail
Juror Goes to Jail for Lying
Gregory Ducas is a 57 year old commercial airline pilot that has been employed by United Airlines for 30 years. He was selected as a juror in one of our cases that was set to go to trial for three days. However, Mr. Ducas apparently did not care to serve on the panel. Although he had several opportunities to tell the lawyers and the judge that he would have trouble being fair and impartial, he remained silent.
We represented a lawyer that was suing its former client for unpaid fees. During the jury selection process Mr. Ducas gave answers that were pleasing to both sides. So leaving him on the panel was a bit of a coin toss for us. In the end, as we were making our strikes, we decided there was more good than bad with Mr. Ducas and chose not to strike him. He was the final juror selected for the panel. The judge seated the final panel, which included Mr. Ducas, and instructed everyone to come back the next morning. The remaining potential jurors were sent home.
After he had been seated with the other jurors and had been sworn in, Mr. Ducas spoke up from his place in the jury box and stated that he needed to speak with the judge. We were done for the day and were cleaning up. First thing in the morning we would begin with opening statements.
So that we could speak with Mr. Ducas , the other jurors were excused. Mr. Ducas informed everyone that he would be sympathetic to the defendant and could not be fair and impartial. The judge allowed us to examine him more closely and it turns out that the aunt of Mr. Ducas was a nurse and, coincidentally, the defendant had at one time in her career been a nurse. Further, Mr. Ducas stated that some of the flight attendants in his crew were also nurses. So he decided that he could not be fair or impartial in deciding the matter because he liked nurses. He stated he would favor the defendant due to her link to the nursing profession.
Obviously, to everyone in the room, Mr. Ducas simply did not want to serve. There were multiple opportunities to make the story up before the jury was seated and he decided now is the time to speak up or serve. The judge told the lawyers to go home and research the issue so that we can make a decision the next day regarding whether we could move forward.
Unfortunately for us, once the jury panel has been seated, striking any of the jurors would mean a mistrial. Accordingly, the next day the judge struck Mr. Ducas, declared a mistrial and then excused all of the jurors except Mr. Ducas.
At that moment three very large sheriff deputies came into the court room and surrounded Mr. Ducas. The court then proceeded to put Mr. Ducas under oath and examined him regarding the events of the prior 24 hours. Once the facts were well-established that Mr. Ducas had waited to disclose this alleged bias until all the other jurors had been dismissed and he had been sworn in as a juror, she (rightly) held him in contempt for his perjury and ordered him to 48 hours in jail. So, Mr. Ducas spent three days at the courthouse, anyway. Regrettably, two of those days were spent in jail.
You never know what you will see at the courthouse. A juror being led away in handcuffs is the most unusual of sights.
You can read the story in the Dallas Morning News here.