ESCONDIDO — An elderly man convicted of murdering one roommate and wounding another was granted a new trial based on jury misconduct, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled Aug. 7.
Despite the jury foreman’s intentions to follow the court’s instructions, he inadvertently introduced “extraneous” information into the jury deliberations for 70-year-old Octavian Crishan, Judge Joel Pressman said.
At the heart of the defense’s motion was a statement made by the jury foreperson in which he encouraged dissenting jurors to speculate about what a mistrial could mean for Crishan. The foreperson questioned Crishan’s financial ability to afford private counsel in a second trial, which could lead to a murder conviction instead of the lesser include charge of manslaughter that the panel was leaning toward.
“There were no sinister motives behind his statements,” Pressman said. “I think he acted in good faith.”
Four jurors had given sworn affidavits to the court about the alleged misconduct during the deliberations by the jury foreperson, defense attorney John Cotsirilos told the court.
Initially, two women, Anne Chute-Jacobs and Victoria Davis, came forward explaining how the forepersons comments dissuaded their decision to vote not guilty, Cotsirilos stated in court briefs. Prior to their sworn affidavits, both women had written the judge asking for leniency in Crishan’s sentence, the lawyer wrote.
The foreperson who testified at a closed hearing admitted he made the statement, but said he was just trying to facilitate the deliberation, because four of the jurors were bent from the start on a not guilty verdict, Prosecutor Brendan McHugh told the court in his argument against the motion for a new trial.
McHugh attributed the outcrying from the four jurors as “buyer’s remorse” for their decision to convict Crishan of the voluntary manslaughter of his longtime friend Herman Wiesemeyer, 67, and the attempted murder of Matthew Vivian in Wiesemeyer’s Escondido home on Parktree Lane on Feb. 18, 2007. Both Vivian and Crishan rented rooms from Wiesemeyer.
Crishan, a former Las Vegas concert violinist, is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
Pressman set a Sept. 24 readiness conference.
Both attorneys said they would retry the case if needed.