Jury Tampering Law & Legal Definition


Jury tampering is the crime of attempting to influence a jury through other means than the evidence presented in court, such as conversations about the case outside the court, offering bribes, making threats or asking acquaintances to interfere with a juror.

A person commits the crime of jury tampering if, with intent to influence a juror's vote, opinion, decision or other action in the case, he attempts directly or indirectly to communicate with a juror other than as part of the proceedings in the trial of the case. Jury tampering may be committed by conducting conversations about the case outside the court, offering bribes, making threats or asking acquaintances to communicate with a juror.

A juror includes any person who is a member of any jury, including a grand jury, impaneled by any court or by any public servant authorized by law to impanel a jury. The term juror also includes any person who has been summoned or whose name has been drawn to attend as a prospective juror.

Some jury tampering cases have involved physical barriers or obstructions to the courthouse, and protests or pamphleting in the courthouse area. At issue in such cases is the conflict between First Amendment protections of expression and coercive influencing of jurors. Wood v. Georgia, 370 U.S. 375 (1962) held that a state may not punish out-of-court statements critical of judicial actions, absent special circumstances showing an extremely high likelihood of serious interference with the administration of justice. It approved the clear and present danger standard used in Bridges v. California, Pennekamp v. Florida, and Craig v. Harney. Id., at 314 U.S. 252 (1941); 328 U.S. 331 (1946); and 331 U.S. 367 (1947), respectively.

The Code of Ethics applicable to attorneys often addresses the type of communications prohibited between attorneys and jurors on the grounds of jury tampering. Some of the issues examined in court cases, among others, include whether the person communicated to a specific juror or a general group, whether the person revealed evidence not available to the public, and whether it was a general criticism of government protected by free speech rights.

The following is an example of a state statute dealing with jury tampering:

"A person commits jury tampering if, with intent to influence a juror's vote, opinion, decision or other action in a case, such person directly or indirectly, communicates with a juror other than as part of the normal proceedings of the case."