On Friday January 11, the Michigan Court of Appeals threw out David Allan’s extortion conviction after it was determined that during Allan’s 2011 trial, the jury was not properly sworn in. According to The Detroit News, Allan’s attorney challenged the conviction for conspiring with his daughter to commit extortion, because the jurors were not given the oath.
In 2010, Allan’s daughter allegedly threatened to accuse a man she had sex with for months after meeting him at a strip club of rape if he did not pay her. Randy Davidson, Allan’s appellate attorney, discovered that the jury had not been sworn in while reviewing court transcripts.
Theodore Bachakes, the alleged victim of the extortion plot, testified that he and Allan had consensual sex. Jennifer Allan and her father were accused of taking at least $2,000 from Bachakes in the scheme. David Allan was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison in the July 2011 trial.
The appeals court found in a 3-0 decision that at the beginning of Allan’s trial, the jury did not take an oath, which would ensure their impartiality during the court proceedings. Jackson Circuit Court “committed a plain error that requires reversal by failing to swear in the jury,” the appeals court stated.
Jennifer Allan was sentenced to two to 20 years in prison in her July 2011 trial; her conviction and sentence stand.
Apparently, the jurors in the 2011 trial were sworn-in during the selection process, but were not sworn-in prior to opening statements. The appeals court said that it is important that jurors are sworn-in before the presentation of evidence, because it is not a “mere formality.” Judges Jane Beckering, E. Thomas Fitzgerald and William Whitbeck all agreed that, “It is a long-standing common-law requirement that is necessary to protect defendants’ constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury.”
Prosecutors did not agree that a mistake should require a new trial. Jerry Schrotenboer, Jackson County assistant prosecutor, called the case “extraordinarily unusual” and said that the decision will be appealed.
Michigan criminal appeals attorneys understand that mistakes are made during the criminal justice process; there are also instances in which innocent individuals are convicted for crimes they did not commit.
If you feel that legal errors were made in your situation or that you have been wrongly convicted, consult with an experienced and capable Michigan appellate lawyer right away.