Eric Bartl 8 a.m., Nov. 19
La Jolla hotel burglar still fighting for new trial
Thief was sentenced to 38 years in 2006
Seven years after being sentenced to prison for a series of La Jolla hotel burglaries, Donald McNeely is fighting for a new trial because the foreman on his convicting jury failed to disclose he had worked as a lawyer and was later found to have been blogging about the trial’s deliberation process, Courthouse News Service reports.
In 2006, McNeely was sentenced to 38 years and eight months in prison for stealing credit cards, computers, and electronics from two local hotels.
“Nowhere do I recall the jury instructions mandating I can't post comments in my blog about the trial. (Ha. Sorry, will do.)” wrote Juror 8, who also went on to complain about the reluctance of other members of the jury to quickly arrive at a guilty verdict, and stated at one point that he had described his occupation as a “project manager” rather than as a lawyer in order to appear impartial and increase his chances of landing on a jury. In transcripts of the blog entries, the juror also repeatedly refers to the defendant in the case as “Donald the Duck” and another juror as “skinhead Brad.”
A U.S. Magistrate judge recommended in 2010 that the request for a new trial be denied, and a federal judge in San Diego followed through on that denial recommendation in 2011. The California Supreme Court initially ruled in favor of vacating McNeely’s conviction, but on remand to the trial court the judgment was reversed and the conviction was reinstated.
McNeely’s latest appeal is to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Pasadena Judge Ferdinand Francis Fernandez, where it was pointed out that the juror did not in fact lie about his work in law, but rather intentionally omitted the fact when he was not asked about it, in order to secure a jury spot and gain a story to tell on his personal blog.
“He was just being lawyerly-like,” observed Fernandez, who has yet to issue a final decision on the request for a retrial.
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