Judges Opinions Public Notices, — May 13, 2020 10:43 — 0 Comments

Public Notices, May 6, 2020

Volume 57, No. 40

 

PUBLIC NOTICES

DECEDENTS’ ESTATES

FICTITIOUS NAME

ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Maldonado Rosado

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that Letters Testamentary or of Administration have been granted in the following estates. All persons indebted to the said estate are required to make payment, and those having claims or demands to present the same without delay to the administrators or executors named.

 

THIRD PUBLICATION

 

ESTATE OF SUSAN E. ALLWEIN, late of the City of Lebanon, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Co-Administrators.

 

Mark T. Allwein, Co-Administrator

Christoper A. Allwein, Co-Administrator

Douglas M. Allwein, Co-Administrator

 

George W. Porter, Esquire

909 E. Chocolate Ave.

Hershey, PA 17033

 

ESTATE OF MYRA G. HOSTETLER, late of North Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Donna Long Brightbill, Executrix

Frederick S. Long, Attorney

315 South 8th Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

FICTITIOUS NAME

 

ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that Articles of Incorporation have been filed with the Department of State of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the purpose of engaging in any lawful act concerning any or all lawful business for which corporations may be incorporated under the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law of 1988 as amended. The name of the corporation is:  Miller Law Firm, PC. Articles of Incorporation have been filed on March 12, 2020.

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Department of State of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on April 2, 2020, for the purpose of obtaining a Certificate of Incorporation for a nonprofit corporation organized under the Nonprofit Corporation Law of 1988, Act of December 21, 1988, P.L. 1444, No. 177, Section 103.  The name of the corporation is Lebanon County Community Organizations Active in Disasters. 

KEVIN M. RICHARDS, ESQUIRE

Henry & Beaver LLP

937 Willow Street

P.O. Box 1140

Lebanon, PA 17042-1140

Solicitor for the corporation

 

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Maldonado Rosado

 

Criminal Action-Law-Post Verdict Contact with Jurors-Juror Misconduct-Prima Facie Showing-Formal Motion-Court Permission and Supervision

 

Defendant was found guilty following a trial by jury of offenses including Possession with Intent to Deliver following a traffic stop in February of 2019 in which ninety-four (94) bags of heroin and/or fentanyl were found in the vehicle operated by Defendant.  Prior to sentencing that was delayed a result of an appeal taken by Defendant from a Post Sentence Motion Order, the Court was notified by the Commonwealth that personnel at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility had discovered letters authored by Defendant requesting friends to contact the jurors of his trial to provide documentation he viewed as exculpatory and to ask jurors about the content of the deliberations.

 

  1. No constitutional, statutory or rule based right exists to contact and to interview jurors following a verdict.

 

  1. There is strong public policy against post-verdict contact with jurors, including the need for freedom in deliberation, the stability and finality of verdicts and the protection of jurors from annoyance and embarrassment after rendering a verdict.

 

  1. Rules prohibiting or restricting post trial contact with jurors are constitutional.

 

  1. Trial Courts have the authority to enter orders that prohibit contact with jurors.

 

  1. In Pennsylvania, a juror is prohibited from testifying about his or her subjective reasoning process and the deliberation process.

 

  1. Post verdict contact with jurors should be permitted only in the most unusual of circumstances with permission of and monitoring by the Court.

 

  1. The Court will not permit any interview with jurors without good cause, which requires a prima facie showing of juror misconduct such as willful nondisclosure during voir dire, improper contact by a juror with litigants prior to the verdict or some sort of admission by the juror that he or she rendered a decision on an improper basis such as racial or gender bias.

 

  1. If prima facie evidence exists of juror misconduct, the party seeking to interview a juror must file a formal motion seeking court approval for the interview. The formal motion must allege facts to substantiate specific, non-speculative impropriety.

 

  1. The opposing party must be provided with notice of the formal motion.

 

  1. A hearing must be conducted at which the party seeking the interview will be required to present proof by competent evidence that juror misconduct has occurred.

 

  1. The court will authorize contact with a juror by Court personnel only if the Court is satisfied after the hearing that a prima facie basis for juror misconduct has been established.

 

L.C.C.C.P. No. CP-38-CR-0000698-2019, Opinion by Bradford H. Charles, Judge, March 30, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS LEBANON COUNTY

PENNSYLVANIA

 

CRIMINAL DIVISION

 

COMMONWEALTH OF                             :        NO. CP-38-CR-698-2019

PENNSYLVANIA                                       :              207-MDA 2020

                                                                   :

  1. :

                                                                   :       

WILLIAM MALDONADO ROSADO           :

 

 

ORDER OF COURT

 

AND NOW, this 30th day of March, 2020, in accordance with the attached Opinion, the Order of this Court is as follows:

  1. The Defendant shall not initiate any contact, direct or indirect, with any of the jurors who participated in his jury trial. A violation of this Order could result in a finding of contempt that is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six (6) months.
  2. No friend, family or representative of the Defendant, including Sarah Peiffer and Ray Brown, shall be permitted to contact any juror who participated in the trial of the Defendant’s case. A violation of this provision could also result in a finding of contempt.
  3. Leave is granted for the Defendant to file a motion seeking to conduct interviews with jurors. This motion will not be granted solely as a means to second-guess the jury’s decision or inquire about the decision-making process employed by the jury.  If specific allegations of juror misconduct are set forth factually in the motion, this Court will conduct a hearing to determine whether and under what circumstances an interview with a juror should be afforded.
  4. A copy of this Order is to be served by personal service upon the Defendant and upon Sarah Peiffer and Ray Brown.

BY THE COURT:

 

                                               J.

BRADFORD H. CHARLES

BHC/pmd

 

cc:     Court Administration (Court Order only)

District Attorney’s Office

Jeffrey F. Arnold, Esquire

William Maldonado Rosado// LCCF

Sheriff

Sarah Peiffer

Ray Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS LEBANON COUNTY

PENNSYLVANIA

 

CRIMINAL DIVISION

 

COMMONWEALTH OF                             :        NO. CP-38-CR-698-2019

PENNSYLVANIA                                       :       207-MDA 2020  

                                                                   :

  1. :

                                                                   :       

WILLIAM MALDONADO ROSADO           :

APPEARANCES

 

Nichole Eisenhart, Esquire                     For Commonwealth of

DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE            Pennsylvania

 

Jeffrey F. Arnold, Esquire                      For Defendant

OPINION BY CHARLES, J.,  March 30, 2020

 

Juries are the lifeblood of the American judicial system.  Without jurors who are willing to give of their time and attention, our system of justice cannot function.  For this reason, courts must be very careful to protect jurors…not only from retribution, but also from being placed in an uncomfortable position by aggrieved persons who are looking to impugn their decision.  In this case, the Defendant has attempted to enlist friends to contact jurors who found him guilty.  We issue this Opinion today to put a stop to the Defendant’s unmonitored effort to contact jurors.

 

  1. FACTS

On December 17, 2019, the Defendant was found guilty by a jury of numerous offenses, the most serious of which was Possession With Intent to Deliver heroin and fentanyl.  The charges arose from an incident that occurred on February 13, 2019.  On that date, police officers with the Lebanon County Drug Task Force received information that a vehicle was returning from Philadelphia with a large amount of heroin.  When the vehicle arrived in Lebanon County, a traffic stop was conducted.  The Defendant was the operator of the vehicle.  During a search of the vehcile, ninety-four (94) bags of heroin/fentanyl were discovered.  During a subsequent interview, the Defendant admitted to two police officers that he had driven to Philadelphia in order to pick up heroin.

Throughout the course of this prosecution, the Defendant has been prolific in filing pro se motions seeking various types of relief.  Because the Defendant was represented by counsel, we consistently denied his pro se motions.  On several occasions, the Defendant filed pro se appeals which were subsequently quashed by Pennsylvania’s Superior Court.  Eventually, the Defendant renounced his American citizenship because “I am scared of a justice system that in the year 2019 still functions like the Spanish Inquisition or a modern Salem witch trial.”

Because the Defendant appealed one of this Court’s post-trial rulings, sentencing has not yet occurred.  On March 18, 2020, First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Eisenhart communicated with this Court to advise that the Lebanon County Prison discovered letters authored by the Defendant that contained requests for friends to make contact with jurors.  Included in these letters were lists containing each juror’s name.  The Defendant asked one of his friends to search Facebook for any information regarding the jurors.  He asked this friend to communicate with the jurors and “see what type of conversation they had when they deliberated.”  He also asked the friend to provide jurors with additional documentation that he viewed as exculpatory.

We conducted a hearing regarding the Commonwealth’s jury contact complaint on March 26, 2020.  The Commonwealth presented three witnesses and the Defendant himself testified.  According to Lebanon County Prison officials, the Defendant submitted a request slip seeking permission to provide “legal mail” to a visitor.  The request was granted.  However, when prison officials perused the documentation, they noted a handwritten letter via which the Defendant instructed a friend to contact certain jurors.  Deputy Warden Tina Litz notified the District Attorney’s Office about the Defendant’s effort, because she did not feel it was appropriate.  At the March 26 hearing, the Defendant blurted out in the middle of the hearing that he was attempting to contact jurors in order to provide them with documentation that he felt was exculpatory.  During his own testimony, the Defendant went one step further; he stated that he already had information that several jurors were “pressured” into rendering a verdict of guilty.  When we advised the Defendant that it was not proper for him to contact jurors, he exclaimed: “How do I prove jury misconduct?”  We explained that we would be authoring this Opinion to provide him with guidance regarding the proper way to request an investigation of jury misconduct.

It is not known whether any of the efforts made by the Defendant to investigate and contact jurors were received by or acted upon by his “friends” outside of prison.  However, in an effort to put a stop to the Defendant’s efforts, this Court entered an immediate Order precluding additional contact.  No punitive action was taken for the past conduct.

Also pertinent is the context within which this issue has arisen.  As this Opinion is being authored, Pennsylvania is in the midst of a state-wide Judicial Emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  Millions of people across the country have been asked to “shelter-in-place”.  Everyone in America has been encouraged to undertake “social distancing”.  Within this context, encouraging “friends” to contact and communicate with jurors creates potential health hazards for both the juror and the “friend” of the Defendant.

Because we view the privacy of jurors as sacrosanct, and because we have little doubt that the Defendant will continue to pursue his quest for contact with jurors via an appeal, we have chosen to author this Opinion in order to emphatically declare that post-verdict contact with jurors should be permitted only in the most unusual of circumstances.  Even then, it should be undertaken only with permission and monitoring by the Court.

  1. DISCUSSION

No one has a constitutional, statutory or rule-based right to contact and interview jurors following a verdict.  In fact, Pennsylvania’s highest court has stated: “The practice of interviewing jurors after a verdict and obtaining from them ex parte, unsworn statements in answer to undisclosed questions and representations by the interviewers is highly unethical and improper…it is forbidden by public policy.” Commonwealth ex rel Darcy v. Claudy, 79 A.2d 785, 786 (Pa. 1951)[1].

Numerous courts have spoken about the “strong public policy” against post-verdict contact with jurors.  One court stated:

“Courts are hesitant to allow interrogation of jurors in order to probe for potential misconduct after they have reached a verdict.  The rationale for this policy is the need for freedom of deliberation, stability and finality of verdicts, and protection of jurors from annoyance and embarrassment after they have performed their civic duty and rendered a verdict.” State v. Jones, 868 P.2d 18, 20 (Or. App. 1994)

 

Another court put it this way:

“The goal in limiting parties’ contact with the jury is not to unduly restrict the discovery of evidence suggesting juror misconduct, but rather to protect jurors from unwanted contact and potential harassment…” Hall v. State, 253 P.3d 716 (Idaho 2011).

 

Given the public policy against post-verdict contact with jurors, trial courts have the authority to enter orders that prohibit such contact.  As it relates to lawyers, Pennsylvania has promulgated a rule that prohibits post-trial contact with jurors when prohibited by a court order. See, Pa. Rule of Professional Conduct 3.5(c).  In addition, Lebanon County has promulgated a rule prohibiting any lawyer from having contact with a juror outside of a courtroom.  See, Leb.R.C.P. 52-223.3.  Rules prohibiting or restricting post-trial contact with jurors are constitutional.  In Tasin v. SIFCO Industries Inc., 553 N.E, 2d 257 (Ohio 1990), the court rejected a constitutional challenge to a rule prohibiting post-verdict communication with jurors.  The court stated:

Tasin’s purported First Amendment right to post-verdict juror interrogation fails when balanced against the needs to assure ‘full and frank discussion in the jury room and the communites’ trust in a system that relies on the decisions of laypeople’…Accordingly, we hold that a local rule, such as Loc.R.22(D), which prohibits post-trial communication between parties or their counsel and jurors, without leave of court, for the purpose of investigating the validity of a verdict, is not an unconstitutional prior restraint on freedom of speech.”

Id at page 263.

 

          To be sure, there could be isolated circumstances when juror misconduct needs to be investigated.  In those rare circumstances, a need could exist for a post-verdict interview with a juror.  See, Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company v. Tucker, 608 So. 2d 85 (Fla.D.C. 1992).  However, courts have held with near unanimity that post-verdict interviews with jurors should only be conducted under the supervision of a court.  Moreover, motions for leave to conduct juror interviews must be supported by specific allegations of misconduct and not merely “speculative or conclusory concerns.” Foster v. State, 132 So. 3D 40 (Fla. 2013).  Stated differently, no litigant is entitled to an interview with a juror “as a fishing expedition to find some reason to attack a verdict.”  Golnick v. Callender, 869 N.W. 2d 180 (Neb. 2015); See also, Roach v. State, 116 So. 3d 126 (Miss. 2013).

In Pennsylvania, jurors are prohibited from testifying about his/her subjective reasoning process or about the deliberation process.  This is commonly known as the “no impeachment rule.”  See, Commonwealth v. Szakal, 50 A.3d 210 (Pa. Super. 2012); Commonwealth v. Pope, 14 A.3d 139 (Pa. Super. 2011).  A specific Rule of Evidence states:

“During an inquiry into the validity of a verdict, a juror may not testify about any statement made or incident that occurred during the jury’s deliberations; the effect of anything on that juror’s or another juror’s vote; or any juror’s mental processes concerning the verdict.  A court may not receive a juror’s affidavit or evidence of a juror’s statement on these matters.” Pa.R.Ev. 606(b)(1).

 

Pennsylvania’s Superior Court has declared:

“We cannot accept the statement of jurors as to what transpired in the jury room as to the propriety or impropriety of a juror’s conduct.  To do so, would destroy the security of all verdicts and go far toward weakening the efficacy of trial by jury, so well grounded in our system of jurisprudence.  Jurors cannot impeach their own verdict.  Their deliberations are secret and their inviability must be closely guarded.  Only in clear cases [of] improper conduct by jurors, evidence by competent testimony, should a verdict, which is still supported by the evidence, be set aside and a new trial granted.  Commonwealth v. Messersmith, 860 A.2d 1078, 1084-1085 (Pa. Super. 2004).[2]

 

At the hearing we conducted on March 26, 2020, the Defendant angrily exclaimed: “If I cannot do this on my own, how can I possibly investigate jury misconduct?”  In response to this question, we first advise the Defendant that we will not permit any interview with jurors – even interviews monitored by court officials – without good cause.  Good cause means more than suspicion of impropriety.  It means more than disagreement with individual thought processes, calculations or  motives of an individual juror.  Good cause requires more than simple disagreement with the manner of deliberation or the extent of compromises that were necessary for a verdict to be rendered.  To this Court, good cause that would justify post-verdict inquiry with jurors requires a prima facie showing of juror misconduct such as willful nondisclosure during voir dire, improper contact by a juror with litigants prior to the decision, or some sort of admission by the juror that he/she rendered a decision on an improper basis such as racial or gender bias.

If prima facie evidence of juror misconduct exists, the party seeking to interview the jury must follow a process similar in nature to the one sanctioned by the Mississippi Supreme Court in Gladney v. Clarksdale Beverage Inc., 625 So.2d 407 (Miss. 1993).  That process would require the following:

  • The filing of a formal motion seeking court approval for interviews with jurors;
  • The formal motion must allege facts to substantiate specific non-speculative impropriety. An inquiry with jurors will not be permitted as a “mere fishing expedition”.
  • After a motion is filed, the opposing party must be given notice. A hearing will be conducted at which the party seeking the jury investigation will be required to present proof by competent evidence that juror misconduct has occurred;
  • If, after hearing, the court is satisfied that a prima facie basis for juror misconduct has been established, the court will authorize contact by court personnel with the jurors. If necessary, the juror will be asked to appear at a hearing where both counsel will be permitted to be present. At least initially, all questions of the juror will be posed by the court after consultation with counsel.

 

 

III.     CONCLUSION

In its decision to protect jurors by withholding their addresses from a defendant, Pennsylvania’s highest court stated:

Turning to the need to encourage jury service, all of the important functions served by the jury are meaningless unless there are twelve qualified citizens willing to serve as jurors.  The average citizen has expressed discomfort at the prospect of being harassed by the press during or after the case is over…Similarly, jurors have expressed fear of physical harm related to serving on criminal juries.  Either of these factors may make the average citizen less willing to serve on a jury, especially if he or she believes that the media, the defendant, or the defendant’s family and friends know where he or she lives.  It is not difficult to conclude that the privacy concerns of citizens being asked to serve as jurors are real and legitimate.”

Commonwealth v. Long, 922 A.2d 892,904 (Pa. 2007),

 

The same rationale that was used by Pennsylvania Supreme Court to prohibit disclosure of jurors’ addresses also applies to prohibiting unsupervised contact between jurors and those aggrieved by their decisions.

We have little doubt that jurors intuitively recognize that their decisions will be second-guessed by litigants who are not happy with the outcome of their case.  Most jurors can live with this knowledge.  But what no jury system can live with are privacy invasions by strangers seeking information to impugn the integrity of the juror’s decision.  Permitting unrestricted and unsupervised contact between jurors and those who have a vested interest in helping a friend who may be imprisoned could create a recipe for disaster.  It is more than merely possible that such encounters could result in conflict.  At a minimum, these encounters would be uncomfortable for jurors…and such unpleasant encounters could very easily discourage good citizens from being a part of the jury process.

We will enter an Order today to prevent the Defendant from initiating any contact, direct or indirect, with any juror who participated in his jury trial.  This prohibition will extend to all friends and family who were solicited by the Defendant to initiate contact with jurors.  Specifically, the prohibition will extend to Ray Brown and Sarah Peiffer, the individuals to whom the Defendant’s written solicitation were directed.   We will advise the Defendant that if he, Mr. Brown, Ms. Peiffer or anyone else violates this Order by contacting a juror, such action could result in a finding of contempt that would be punishable by up to six (6) months of imprisonment.

With the above being said, there is a process by which any defendant can seek Court-sanctioned contact with a juror.  As outlined above, a specific motion based upon specific allegations of misconduct will have to be filed.  Moreover, before any contact with a juror is permitted, this Court will conduct a hearing to determine whether the jury interview is necessary.  This entire process will be consistent with Pennsylvania’s “no impeachment rule”.  An Order to effectuate all of the decisions we have rendered will be entered today’s date.

[1] In Darcy, Pennsylvania’s highest court held that “such post-trial statements by jurors are not to be given any weight on even an application for a new trial.” Id at 786.

[2] There is a narrow exception to the “no impeachment rule” in situations where “extraneous influences” could have prejudiced a jury during its deliberations.  See, Commonwealth v. Pope, Supra.  Even under such circumstances, jurors are prohibited from testifying as to the effect of these extra-evidentiary influences on the deliberation process.  Commonwealth v. Tedford, 960 A.2d 1 (Pa. 2008).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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