Judge holds jurors in contempt, fines them for using cellphone

ENID, Okla. — Two jurors from the trial of a 29-year-old Enid woman on a charge of child abuse by injury earlier this month were sanctioned Wednesday by the judge in the case for using a cellphone during deliberations.

Associate District Judge Jack Hammontree told jurors Henry Cisneros and Jeffrey Resendiz at the conclusion of the trial of Mirella Salas-Morales Nov. 5, 2019, it was reported by another juror there was an issue with some juror misconduct.

The seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated for about 8 hours before finding the 29-year-old woman guilty of shaking Alan Corona, who was 5 months old when he was in her care last summer.

He said the day after the jury trial concluded, another juror disclosed the two used a smartphone during deliberation and looked up the definition of beyond a reasonable doubt.

The men admitted to using the cellphone, which belonged to Cisneros, during the deliberation stage of trial.

Hammontree read the two the jury instruction dealing with electronic devices. It concludes that those found in violation can be fined and sentenced to jail time.

"I don't know how more clearly that can be put," the judge said after reading the instruction. "It's essential you keep your minds free and open."

Hammontree told the men the defense spent almost $20,000 on the trial. He said he did not know the cost to the state but it had two attorneys at seven days of trial. He told the men their actions were grounds for the defense and the state to request a new trial.

"Fortunately, neither side has elected to file for a new trial," the judge said.

He told Cisneros and Resendiz the jury recommended six months and a fine of $5,000 for Salas-Morales. "So, I'm wondering if this is the going rate?"

Hammontree told the men their actions were "blatant, egregious violations" of the court's rules.

"If either side would have elected to file for a new trial there is ground for it," Hammontree said. "The entire integrity of our trial, court system depends on jurors coming in and doing what they are supposed to do. I am going to hold you both in direct contempt and fine you $200."

The judge told the men they would be given 30 days to pay their fines.

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Rains is police and court reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @cassrains.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Cass? Send an email to crains@enidnews.com.

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