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HomeNewsArchivesAttorney Could Be Disbarred After Interfering With Jury in GRM Trial

Attorney Could Be Disbarred After Interfering With Jury in GRM Trial

June 5, 2006 — A federal judge recommended Monday a legal disciplinary board decide the fate of an attorney who made inappropriate comments to jurors deliberating the Global Resources Management fraud and corruption trial.
Chetema M. Lucas-Francis, a defense attorney not associated with the trial, told four or five of the jurors Friday that they should find the defendants innocent or guilty quickly in order to finish their jury duty.
Two court clerks alerted U.S. District Court Judge James Giles, who threatened to hold Lucas-Francis in contempt of court.
The clerks testified they were shocked by the remarks, and Giles said jurors thought Lucas-Francis was "deranged."
Lucas-Francis initially said she hadn't done anything wrong, that she didn't know the people were jurors in a criminal trial and that her comments were made absent-mindedly.
"I made a comment. It was to no one in particular. I said they can either let them go or convict, then they can go home," Lucas-Francis said while smiling on the witness stand. "It simply meant: Make a decision."
"I don't believe you were that dumb," said Giles. "And I use that word deliberately."
Lucas-Francis later acknowledged that she suspected the women were jurors deliberating a criminal trial, but said she didn't mean to influence them to convict or acquit.
She said she was frustrated with her job and spoke without thinking. She also later asked the jurors if they were deliberating the GRM case.
"It was improper, and I was having a very bad day," said Lucas-Francis, a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and former Superior Court clerk.
Giles denied two motions for mistrial from the men's attorneys after the jurors said Lucas-Francis had not tainted their opinions.
Jurors remained deadlocked after about 30 hours of deliberation and Giles later declared a mistrial Saturday afternoon.
Giles said he did not blame Lucas-Francis for the mistrial, but said: "What I find disturbing is her lack of appreciation for the legal administration of justice."
Giles and Lucas-Francis had several heated exchanges during the two-hour hearing Monday, during which each spoke over and interrupted the other.
Lucas-Francis was ten minutes late for the 2:30 p.m. contempt hearing.
Jaws dropped in the courtroom when Lucas-Francis' cell phone rang as Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Murphy was speaking. A court marshal took the phone away.
Giles recommended the V.I. Bar Association review Lucas-Francis' conduct in an investigation and impose whatever penalty it saw fit, which could range from a reprimand to disbarment — effectively banning Lucas-Francis from practicing law in the territory.
It was not immediately clear when the bar association would consider the case.
"Every attorney is here as an officer of the court and is bound to respect the court. And nothing is more basic than to protect jurors from contamination," Giles said. "It is an absolute no-no that is appreciated by everybody … that when persons are jurors, one stays as far away from their function as jurors as they possibly can. That is so basic to their right to a fair trial, in every community, especially a small community."
"If the jurors had come back with guilty verdicts … and the jury said they weren't influenced, do you think the sentencing judge could get that out of his mind?" Giles said.
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