SAN JOSE -- Santa Clara County prosecutors Wednesday announced rare jury-tampering charges against a San Jose man who was on trial for drug dealing.
According to prosecutors, Jose Chavez, 31, was desperate to avoid another felony drug-dealing conviction when he allegedly asked a relative to pass a note to a juror on the last day of his trial.
But instead of winning the juror's sympathy, the maneuver could win Chavez an extra six years behind bars.
Deputy District Attorney Daniel Rothbach said Chavez has been charged this week with felony jury tampering.
The charge is rare, presumably because most defendants know better than to risk angering a judge by messing with the panel.
"It was pretty shocking," said Melanie Griswold, the prosecutor in Chavez's drug trial. "Had the juror read the note and told other jurors about it, there was a good chance the case would have been declared a mistrial."
The unusual case began in July on the fifth day of Chavez's trial on charges of possessing $500 to $800 worth of methamphetamine for sale.
The lawyers had finished their closing arguments when Judge Julia Alloggiamento informed the lawyers that a female juror had reported that Chavez's stepfather tried to pass a note to her.
The juror refused to take the note, and the stepfather threw it away. But a bailiff recovered it from the trash.
Chavez's handwritten note explained that his 4-year-old daughter had died in a fire -- information that the judge had ruled could not be presented at trial after Griswold successfully argued that the man's grief was no excuse for dealing drugs. At the time of his arrest, Chavez was on parole for prior drug sales.
It appears the fire that killed his daughter was meth-related, but it is unclear whether the note included that information.
Chavez apparently chose that particular juror because she looked "sort of kind," prosecutors said..
Chavez was convicted of the drug-dealing charge and faces up to 10 years in prison -- on top of the six years he could get if he is found guilty of tampering.
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport