GREELEY — The attorney for an accused contempt-of-court defendant argued Tuesday that his client should not be convicted because jurors in the double-murder mistrial of Alan Bergerud were under “extraneous pressure.”
Glenn Hoffman, who was ultimately the lone juror to hold out against convicting Bergerud, is accused of researching the case on the Internet and tainting deliberations by discussing his findings with other jurors.
But his attorney, Robert Ray, argued Tuesday in Weld County Court that during deliberations jurors were under extreme pressure because the Weld County District Attorney’s Office failed to give them a lesser alternative for conviction than first-degree murder.
Because the district attorney’s office, headed by Al Dominguez at the time, didn’t also file lesser charges on Bergerud, such as second-degree murder, the jury had no other options to convict if elements of first-degree murder were not proved, Ray said.
That meant Bergerud could be set free, despite strong evidence that he committed the murders, he said.
In fact, Ray said, the Bergerud jury was initially tied 6-6 when it first deliberated last year. After that first vote, Ray said, one of the jurors said “We can’t do this or the defendant will walk.”
Weld County District Court Judge Roger Kline is expected to make a decision in Hoffman’s contempt case today.
Bergerud is accused of luring his ex-girlfriend and a friend of hers to a field between Johnstown and Berthoud and fatally shooting them on the night of April 7, 2002.
Part of his defense was that he was impaired by alcohol, low blood-sugar and a low IQ, which made him mentally incapable of intending to kill. Intent is a necessary ingredient for prosecutors to prove first-degree murder.
According to Bergerud juror Audrey Bishop, six members of the jury bought the defense when they first deliberated on Oct. 28 last year. She said the jury was excused for the weekend the next day, then returned after the weekend to learn that Hoffman had completed Internet research.
“He said that he (went) on the Internet to get more information about blood-alcohol, for the purpose of questions on what was said in court,” she said.
The jury’s vote that Monday was 10-2, with the majority choosing to convict Bergerud, Bishop said.
On Tuesday, Nov. 2, Hoffman was the lone holdout, causing a hung jury and a mistrial.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Bernard called five jurors to the stand to tell similar stories. Each said they believed that Hoffman had broken the rules.
“I was shocked,” juror April Shaw said. “We were given clear directions not to do research.”
Ray argued that his client didn’t know he was breaking the rules when he did the research, because jury instructions weren’t specific.
“I can get general facts, just not facts involving the case, that’s what Mr. Hoffman believed,” Ray said.
He reminded Judge Kline that the prosecution needs to prove that Hoffman “willfully violated an order of the court,” and that it doesn’t matter how other jurors interpreted the rules.
Bernard said jury instructions, given orally and in writing, plainly say that jurors should not gather information on their own.
“It’s clear that he went outside the court orders,” Bernard said.
Douglas Crowl can be reached at 303-684-5253, or by e-mail at email@example.com.