Jury's 'Tasteless' Gifts Lead to New Hearing
A man sentenced to death for raping and strangling a 15-year-old girl will get a shot to overturn his conviction after it was discovered that the jurors who condemned him sent penis-shaped chocolates to the overseeing judge and breast-shaped chocolates to the bailiff, the 11th Circuit ruled.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in January that the federal appeals court should decide whether Marcus Wellons got a fair trial in light of the gifts.
The 11th Circuit ordered the district court to grant discovery and conduct an evidentiary hearing.
"One or more jurors gave the judge and the bailiff tasteless and disturbing gifts," the three-judge, Atlanta-based panel wrote. "No court that has reviewed this case has been comfortable with these gifts. Yet, troubling facts do not automatically give rise to a legal claim."
According to the Supreme Court, the gifts were sent to Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley and her bailiff between the time the jury deliberated during sentencing or immediately after Wellons' 1993 trial.