Michigan Court of Appeals Determines Saginaw County Juror’s Wikipedia Research Not Sufficient to Overturn Larceny Conviction

In November of 2011, Julie M. Maliszewski was convicted of larceny from a person. The conviction stemmed from an incident in July of 2010 when Maliszewski was at a friend’s home in Birch Run Township and allegedly stole jewelry worth thousands of dollars, although Maliszewski was deemed “mentally impaired” by appellate judges according to a news article at Mlive.com.

Maliszewski was initially sentenced to 18 months probation, however Saginaw County Circuit Judge Fred L. Borchard extended the probation to five years in September of 2012 due to Maliszewski’s non-payment of restitution.

Maliszewski argued several points in her appeal, including that Borchard erred in not allowing hearsay testimony from the alleged victim’s son, insufficient evidence for a conviction, and failure to grant a mistrial when a juror researched Wikipedia regarding corroborating evidence and reasonable doubt, then shared the findings with other jury members.

Appellate judges Joel Hoekstra, Henry Saad, and Mark Boonstra determined that the reading of the Wikipedia research results to the jury members did not warrant a reversal of Maliszewski’s larceny conviction.

After being informed of the Wikipedia search results, Borchard asked jurors whether they were capable of relying solely on the jury instructions that had been given them, and if they could disregard the search results. Borchard denied the motion for a mistrial after jurors said they could disregard the Wikipedia search results.

The appellate judges disagreed with all of the defendant’s arguments, and ruled that the judge’s decision to deny a mistrial did not impact the defendant’s ability to get a fair trial. The judges also found that jurors were properly instructed by Borchard both prior to and following the trial.

News reports state that Maliszewski will remain on probation until January 2017.

Michigan criminal appeals attorneys know that it is extremely difficult to have a conviction overturned, however the most important factor is having a capable lawyer who is thoroughly familiar and experienced with the process.

Whether you feel that you have been unfairly sentenced or have been convicted of a crime you did not commit, there are options that should be explored – and it may not be the end of the road. Consult with a talented Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who will work with you to determine if you have grounds to appeal.

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