October 25, 2019, 10:25 am CDT
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A doctor convicted of murdering his wife and tampering with evidence is entitled to a new trial because of a juror’s “troublesome” text messages, New York’s top court has ruled.
The juror had sent and received hundreds of text messages about the case, including some texts that “were troublesome and inconsistent with the trial court’s repeated instructions not to discuss the case with any person,” the court said.
The court said the juror tried to hide her misconduct when she “lied under oath to the court, deceived the people and the court by providing a false affidavit and tendering doctored text message exchanges in support of that affidavit, selectively deleted other text messages she deemed ‘problematic,’ and deleted her now-irretrievable internet browsing history.”
One text message from the juror’s father told her to “make sure he’s guilty,” according to coverage by Law.com and Syracuse.com. One friend sent a text describing Neulander as a “scary person.”
Although the juror deleted her browsing history, evidence showed she had accessed local media websites covering the trial. When asked why she had visited one website, she said she probably wanted to read an article about cheerleading. No such article appeared on the website at the relevant time, the Court of Appeals said.
The court said every defendant has a right to be tried by jurors who follow the court’s instructions.
“The extensiveness and egregiousness of the disregard, deception and dissembling occurring here leave no alternative but to reverse the judgment of conviction and remit for a new trial and compel us to affirm publicly the importance of juror honesty,” the court said.
Neulander, 68, has been free on $1 million bond since an intermediate appeals court overturned his 2015 conviction last year, according to Syracuse.com. He had contended his wife died after falling in the shower. Prosecutors contended he killed his wife and made it appear to be an accident.