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NH juror facing contempt probe

September 29, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H.—A New Hampshire judge has tossed out an assault conviction and a juror is facing a criminal investigation for doing outside research on the case.

Angel Santos, 21, of Nashua was convicted of first-degree assault in July for stabbing a victim during a 2010 home invasion.

Hillsborough County Attorney Denis Hogan said Thursday that several weeks after the verdict, his lawyers asked the trial judge to bring the jurors back for questioning about alleged misconduct.

After two days of closed-door hearings last week, Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn declared a mistrial. The judge this week referred the matter to Hogan's office to gauge whether the juror should be prosecuted for criminal contempt.

"The court is very troubled by the complete disregard of its instructions in this matter," Colburn said, adding that the misconduct taints the integrity of the jury trial system.

The judge said it is presumed that the research -- which she characterized in her order as "use of electronic media" -- affected the juror's verdict. The juror had researched information about Santos during the trial, Hogan said.

"It's a very rare thing," Hogan said, of juror misconduct prompting a mistrial. "The court does instruct them on how to behave."

The juror was not identified in the written statement Hogan issued nor in the judge's order referring the matter to Hogan for investigation.

Colburn also bemoaned the cost of a wasted trial and the need to conduct a second trial.

The jury convicted Santos after a four-day trial and two days of deliberations. He was facing 7-1/2 to 15 years in prison on the Class A felony conviction.

Santos was convicted of stabbing Taylor Whiting of Nashua five times at Whiting's home in a dispute over a drug debt.

Hogan said the state plans to retry Santos.

Santos' lawyer -- public defender Kristin Weberg -- did not immediately return a call seeking comment.