By Hanna Diamond

On December 29, 2021, Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite, was convicted on five counts of sex trafficking and “other charges for recruiting and grooming teenage girls” for Jeffrey Epstein.[1]  Maxwell is facing sixty-five years in prison,[2] and her sentencing date is June 28, 2022.[3] 

Maxwell may be awarded a second chance in the courtroom, however, after her attorney filed for a new trial on the grounds of juror misconduct.[4]  The juror, going by his first and middle names “Scotty David,”[5] told the media after the trial that “he shared his experience of being sexually abused as a child during deliberations.”[6]  This juror alleged that his personal experiences helped persuade other jurors of Maxwell’s guilt.[7] 

The focus for the alleged juror misconduct is whether Scotty David honestly answered the pre-screening questionnaire, which asked if “he or anyone in his family had been the victim of sexual abuse.”[8]  The juror said that he does not recall the question, that he was not asked about his personal experiences with sexual abuse during follow up questioning,[9] and that he answered the questionnaire truthfully.[10]

As an attempt to avoid a new trial, the prosecution sent a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan offering to dismiss perjury charges against Maxwell if Maxwell’s convictions stand.[11]  The prosecution argued that this would benefit the victims by “bringing closure to this matter and avoiding the trauma of testifying again.”[12]  

The fact that Scotty David experienced sexual abuse as a child does not disqualify him from serving as a juror.[17]  But, the defense likely would have used one of their challenges to dismiss him.[18]  Prior to serving as a juror, the jurors faced a “30-page, 50-question survey.”[19]  These questionnaires are sealed, so it is inconclusive whether Scotty David properly answered the questionnaire.[20]  In the transcript of his voir dire, he was never asked about the sexual abuse question on the questionnaire, which may suggest that “a disclose had not been made” in the questionnaire.[21]  Scotty David filled out this questionnaire and was required to make disclosures while under oath and an instruction to tell the truth.[22]  Therefore, he is exposed to a perjury charge if he did in fact lie on the questionnaire.[23]

Even if juror misconduct did occur, that does not necessarily mean that Maxwell is entitled to a new trial.[24]  For a new trial to be ordered, it must be determined that “substantial justice has not been done as a result of juror misconduct.”[25]  Seth DuCharme, “a former Justice Department official and former acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York,” said that jurors are “people that come from the community . . . . If you were going to disturb every jury verdict because somebody brought their own personal experience into that process, then you would have to disturb every jury verdict.”[26]  A new trial may be warranted, however, due to juror misconduct “if a juror concealed his or her bias by failing to answer questions truthfully during voir dire.”[27]

Here, the outcome of the new trial will largely depend on whether Scotty David gave proper disclosures during the questionnaire.  Alleged juror misconduct presents a conflict between the interest of justice and the interest of upholding the integrity of jury verdicts.  Defendants should not be given a free pass at a new trial every time there is a slight degree of misconduct by jurors.  This supports why the misconduct must have led to substantial injustice or affected a substantial right of the defendant.  Until Scotty David’s disclosures, or lack thereof, are made public, the substantiality of Scotty David’s alleged juror misconduct remains knowledge for the court.

[1] Luc Cohen, Maxwell Sentencing Set for June, as U.S. Judge Weighs Request for New Trial, Reuters (Jan. 14, 2022, 8:12 PM),  For more information on Ghislaine Maxwell’s charges, see Press Release, Ghislaine Maxwell Charged in Manhattan Federal Court for Conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein to Sexually Abuse Minors, U.S. Att’y’s Office, Dep’t of Just.,, (July 6, 2020).

[2] Cohen, supra note 1.

[3] Lauren Berg, Maxwell Faces Sentencing, Judge Ponders New Trial Bid, Law 360 (Jan. 14, 2022, 10:27 PM),

[4] Max Jaeger, Maxwell Wants New Trial After Juror Reveals Past Sex Abuse, Law 360 (Jan. 5, 2022, 6:51 PM),

[5] Id.

[6] Cohen, supra note 1.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Berg, supra note 3.

[11] Jonathan Stempel, U.S. Offers to Dismiss Ghislaine Maxwell Perjury Case if Sex Abuse Conviction Stands, Reuters (Jan. 11, 2022, 5:33 AM),

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Ben Feuerherd & Kenneth Garger, Ghislaine Maxwell’s Lawyers Say Juror ‘Violated’ Her Right to Fair Trial, N.Y. Post (Feb. 1, 2022, 10:38 PM),

[16] Id.

[17] Shayna Jacobs, Juror Revelations May Jeopardize Ghislaine Maxwell Convictions, Experts Say, Wash. Post (Jan. 6, 2022, 7:37 PM),

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] See People v. Davis, 924 N.Y.S.2d 132, 134 (N.Y. App. Div. 2011) (stating that to prevail on a claim of juror misconduct, the defendant must establish that the juror’s alleged improper conduct “may have affected a substantial right of the defendant” (citing N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 330.30(2) (Consol. 2022))).

[25] LaChapelle v. McLoughlin, 891 N.Y.S.2d 428, 429 (N.Y. App. Div. 2009); N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 4404(a) (Consol. 2022).

[26] Jacobs, supra note 17.

[27] See Matter of State of N.Y. v. Donald G., 130 N.Y.S.3d 579, 582 (N.Y. App. Div. 2020).

Post image by Patrick Feller on Flickr

By Carson Smith

On April 8, 2015, in United States v. Donahue, the Fourth Circuit upheld the conviction of Timothy Donahue for conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). A jury found him guilty and the district court sentenced him to 188 months in prison.

Donahue raised two issues on appeal. First, he argued “that the Government failed to establish a sufficient nexus to interstate commerce to support his convictions.” Second, he argued that the district court abused its discretion when it refused to instruct the jury that interstate commerce may not be implicated where a robbery “depletes the assets of an individual rather than a business.”

Factual Background of the Robbery

On July 21, 2011, Donahue, along with several accomplices, forcefully entered the home of Scott Beaver and demanded that he open a safe known to contain a large amount of money. Beaver complied and Donahue proceeded to rob the safe of 1.5 million dollars in cash.

Prior to the robbery, Donahue performed some glass work for Beaver. Beaver owned Beaver Honda and Salvage, a business that “sold cars and auto parts all across the United States and beyond.” Beaver compensated Donahue for his work with cash. Beaver would collect the cash from a room inside his house while Donahue waited in the living room. During one of these transactions, Donahue learned that Beaver kept all of his money in a house safe and that he was worth several million dollars. Upon learning this information, Donahue conspired to rob the safe and subsequently carried out the robbery.

There Was Substantial Evidence in the Record to Establish Federal Jurisdiction Under the Hobbs Act

On appeal, Donahue first argued that the Government failed to provide substantial evidence to establish that the robbery affected interstate commerce. Absent this element, federal jurisdiction does not exist.

The substantial evidence standard is satisfied where “a reasonable finder of fact could accept [the evidence] as adequate and sufficient to support the conclusion of a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” The substantial evidence burden is very high and courts rarely reverse jury verdicts. Furthermore, under the Hobbs Act, the Government must only prove that the stolen funds had a “de minimis effect on interstate commerce.”

Donahue argued that the money in the safe did not have an affect on interstate commerce because it was taken from a private residence and it consisted only of Beaver’s private funds. However, in United States v. Powell, the Third Circuit held that money stolen from a private residence could still affect interstate commerce when the funds were used for business activities.

Here, the evidence was sufficient to show that Beaver used the funds in the safe for business purposes. Donahue specifically targeted Beaver because he knew Beaver “kept the proceeds from his business in a safe in his home.” Furthermore, evidence presented at trial proved that Beaver paid for his business with cash from the safe.

A substantial evidentiary basis existed for a jury to find that the money in the safe affected interstate commerce. Thus, the Government satisfied the jurisdictional element of the Hobbs Act.

The District Court Did Not Abuse its Discretion in Refusing to Give the Jury Certain Instructions Requested by the Defendant

Donahue also appealed on the basis that the district court abused its discretion when it refused to inform the jury that “interstate commerce may not be involved where the robbery depletes the assets of an individual rather than a business.” In reviewing a jury instruction for abuse of discretion, a court will only overturn the verdict when “the instructions, taken as a whole, [fail to] adequately state the controlling law.”

The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give this particular instruction.

The District Court Ruling Was Affirmed

The Fourth Circuit upheld the jury verdict and affirmed the jury instructions provided by the district court.

By Evelyn Norton

Today, in Hutcherson v. Lim, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to deny Hutcherson’s motion for a new trial.

In the District Court, Hutcherson sought relief for personal injuries sustained during a routine traffic stop.  Specifically, Hutcherson alleged that Lim, a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority police officer, assaulted Hutcherson while issuing a citation for illegal window tints.

Following a three-day jury trial, the jury found that Hutcherson had proven assault and battery claims against Lim.  Yet, the jury awarded Hutcherson zero dollars in compensatory damages because Hutcherson’s wife failed to prove loss of consortium.  Twenty-nine days later, Hutcherson moved for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  The District Court denied the motion.

On appeal, Hutcherson alleged that (1) the District Court improperly admitted a medical evaluation into evidence; and (2) the jury’s award of zero damages is inconsistent with its verdict.

First, Hutcherson argued that a final medical evaluation from his physician was inadmissible hearsay.  The medical evaluation expressed uncertainty as to whether Hutcherson’s partial rotator cuff tear occurred during the incident at issue.  However, testimonial evidence was also offered.

In considering the District Court’s actions, the Fourth Circuit stated that it will not “set aside or reverse a judgment on the grounds that evidence was erroneously admitted unless justice so requires or a party’s substantial rights are affected.” Creekmore v. Maryview Hosp., 662 F.3d 686, 693 (4th  Cir. 2011).  The Fourth Circuit concluded that, even assuming that the District Court erred, the evidence was not sufficiently prejudicial to affect the outcome of the case.  As a result, the medical evaluation’s admission did not affect Hutcherson’s substantial rights. Thus, the Fourth Circuit would not set aside the District Court’s judgment on this basis.

Second, Hutcherson argued that the jury’s award of zero damages is inconsistent with its verdict. While the jury found that Hutcherson proved his assault and battery claims, Hutcherson did not object to the damages award until after the jury’s discharge.  As a result, the Fourth Circuit concluded that Hutcherson waived his objection to any alleged inconsistencies.

Thus, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s order denying Hutcherson’s motion for a new trial.