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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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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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Comments
7

If that wasn't juror misconduct, I can't imagine what would be. As to the whole picture of the case, the evidence, and the judge, I have no recollection. But it is fully understandable why the def is appealing. Thirty-eight years is a considerable chunk of a person's life!

Oct. 11, 2013

As an officer of the court his primary responsibility should be to be 100% forthcoming. In my book he discussed the case as any jury is usually instructed not to,(in his self serving blog) and he lied. He can call it what he wants in lawyer speak but he perjured himself. Hopefully the ninth district court of appeals will also see it that way. If not, well that'll just be another miscarriage of justice to go along with countless others.

Oct. 12, 2013

McNeely was sentenced under the three-strikes law. He had 11 prior felony convictions before he was arrested for the La Jolla burglaries.

Oct. 12, 2013

My comment above wasn't intended to suggest I thought he was innocent, just to comment on the juror's conduct. Generally, prior convictions are not revealed to the jury in these cases, so they were on their own to judge the case on its own merits and nothing more. Since courts are overturning verdicts and sentences on tiny technicalities, this one looks like a slam dunk. Yet, so far, he's not been able to get the thing sent back for retrial. You never know.

Oct. 13, 2013

I should've completed the thought as well. This in no way makes the defendant a free man. He just gets a new trial if he's lucky. So far he hasn't batted too well and, with 11 priors well,...not looking to good. Maybe he'll get lucky. Yeah, and the Chargers are going to beat the white hot Colts!

Oct. 13, 2013

Uh-oh, Chargers did beat the Colts.

Oct. 15, 2013

Looks like our boy's gonna get his trial people? Boy did I call that one wrong.

Oct. 16, 2013

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