Attorneys for two men convicted of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent private investigators to a juror’s workplace, hoping to uncover pre-trial bias by that panelist, court filings revealed.
Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., found guilty last month on federal charges connected to the plot, want new trials based on “the appearance of judicial bias which impacted the proceedings,” according to newly unsealed papers.
Specifically, the defense says a juror got him or herself on to the panel so as to “‘hang’ the defendants” and “had expressed to a co-worker that (juror) had prejudged the case and intended to secure a conviction without regard to evidence,” Croft’s lawyer Joshua Blanchard and Fox’s attorney Christopher Gibbons submitted.
They based their claims on two tipsters, identified in court papers as “Person #1 and Person #2,” who are co-workers of that juror and allegedly had heard second-hand accounts of their colleague’s bias against the defendants.
The trial judge interviewed that juror but no action was taken, the defense said.
“The seven minutes of unsworn questioning was not probing, didn’t follow up on potential discrepancies … and invited the juror to deny allegations without any risk of consequence for false statement,” according to the defense.
The second tipster told the defense of another co-worker, called “Person #3” who had “heard the plans of (the juror) firsthand,” prompting attorneys to send a private investigator to their workplace, the court papers showed.
A private investigator “waited for him to get out of work on the afternoon of August 23, 2022, so that they could question him,” the defense said.
The verdicts were reached on Aug. 23 and “Person #2 informed investigators that (the juror’s family members) had announced that (the juror) contacted (family member) from jury deliberations, discussing the status of deliberation and that the jury had reached a verdict but that it had not been delivered in court yet,” the defense wrote.
Gary Gaudard, an investigator for Fox, said he “attempted to speak with Person #3 as they were walking to their vehicle in the parking lot” at 4 p.m. on Aug. 23, according to court papers.
“I called the person’s name, and they acknowledged me. I identified myself and told Person #3 that I wanted to speak with them regarding possible statements that (the juror) had made regarding the Whitmer trial,” according to Gaudard’s declaration.
“Person #3 stated that they did not know anything and refused to speak with me and got into their vehicle.”
That co-worker said in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want to speak or cooperate, the defense said.
“I offered to speak with them outside of work but they did not want to speak with me,” according to Gaudard. “I offered my card in case they changed their mind. They said that they did not want to talk with me later and declined to take my card and drove out of the lot. ”
A representative for federal prosecutors could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.