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Washington Court of Appeals: Juror's Experiment Not Grounds for Reversal

On September 14, 2009, the Washington State Court of Appeals held that a juror's home experiment based upon testimony he heard in a murder trial was not misconduct and therefore not grounds for reversal of the conviction.

Daniel Jay Perez is a prisoner at Washington State Reformatory. He was housed with cellmate Cory Garzina. One day, Perez was discovered in the cell with the body of Garzina, who had been strangled with a rope that was still embedded in his neck. Perez was taken to segregation. Later that day, he told a lieutenant that he had killed Garzina, showing him marks on his hand that he said were made by the rope. The same day, he similarly confessed to other guards and police officers. Video camera tapes showed that only Perez left or entered the cell between the time of death and the discovery of the body.

At trial, Perez testified that he had been warned to stay away from the cell that morning and threatened by other prisoners if he said anything about the threat. He claimed that his fear of the threats led him to falsely confess to the murder. Perez explained away the marks on his hands by claiming that he had contemplated suicide while in segregation before the lieutenant arrived and had torn the elastic from his undershorts and tightly wrapped it around his hands with the intent of strangling himself. He claimed that the lieutenant had interrupted him at this task.

At home, a juror attempted to remove the elastic from his undershorts. He reported to the other jurors that it would be hard to do. The jury convicted Perez of second degree murder with a deadly weapon. After the verdict, a juror reported the undershorts experiment. Perez filed a motion for new trial based upon juror misconduct. It was denied. He appealed.

The court of appeals held that the experiment was not misconduct per se, but merely "an application of everyday perceptions and common sense to the issues presented at trial." Thus, it did not present extrinsic evidence. The conviction was affirmed.

See: State v. Perez, Wash.Ct.App., No. 61897-1-I (unpublished).

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Related legal case

State v. Perez