Submitted On Briefs: April 25, 2018
W. Leon, appellant pro se
Kathryn M. Slattery, District Attorney, and Susan J. Pope,
Asst. Dist. Atty., Prosecutorial District 1, Alfred, for
appellee State of Maine
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Peter W. Leon appeals from a judgment of conviction of
assault (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. § 2O7(1)(A) (2017),
entered by the trial court (York County, Cashman,
J.) after a jury trial. Leon contends that he was denied
a fair trial because one of the jurors reported that she had
felt pressured to return a guilty verdict. Because the
juror's report did not fall outside of the general
prohibition against consideration of a juror's statement
regarding the dynamics of the jury's deliberations, there
was no error, and we affirm the judgment.
When the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to
the State, "the jury could rationally have found the
following facts beyond a reasonable doubt." State v.
Hall, 2017 ME 210, ¶ 2, 172 A.3d 467.
On October 24, 2016, a mother drove her fifteen-year-old
daughter-the victim-to a fast-food establishment in Sanford.
While the mother waited in the car, the victim entered the
establishment and placed her order. The victim stepped away
from the counter and used her cell phone as she waited.
Moments later, sixty-five-year-old Leon entered the store to
fill his water bottle and make a purchase while his wife
waited in the car. After Leon filled his water bottle, he
walked over to the victim, placed his hand on the
victim's back, and told the victim that her "jeans
looked nice ... nice and tight in all the right places."
The victim testified that Leon's conduct "really
grossed [her] out and made [her] very uncomfortable." As
a result, she immediately sent a text message to her mother,
who proceeded to enter the store as her daughter was leaving.
The mother encountered Leon and called 9-1-1. The incident
was recorded on the store's surveillance equipment.
In January of 2017, Leon was charged by complaint with one
count of assault (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. § 2O7(1)(A), and
entered a plea of not guilty. At a one-day jury trial held in
August of 2017, the surveillance video was admitted in
evidence and played for the jury. After also hearing from
several witnesses including the victim, her mother, and Leon,
jury returned a guilty verdict. Upon inquiry by the court,
all of the jurors affirmed collectively that this was their
verdict. Because of the late hour, the court continued the
matter to the next day for sentencing.
As the jury was leaving the courtroom after it was
discharged, Leon spoke briefly to one of the jurors. After
that interaction, the juror told a judicial marshal that she
had "gone against all of her morals in convicting this
man" and that "the State had not proven the case
but she could not make her fellow jurors continue with their
deliberations and come back [the following day]."
Although the marshal told the juror that she could contact
the court the following morning to express any concerns, the
juror did not so do.
That next morning, when the parties were back in court for
the sentencing hearing, the court informed the parties of the
juror's statement to the marshal and appropriately
provided them with the marshal's report about the matter.
When the court invited the parties to be heard, the State
expressed its view that the report could not affect the
verdict. Leon's attorney then stated that she wanted to
hear from the court first but "then might be heard if it
seems appropriate." The court announced its conclusion
that there was no evidence of juror misconduct and that the
guilty verdict would stand. Leon then requested a continuance
of the sentencing hearing in order to research the jury
issue. The court denied that request, proceeded to hold the
sentencing hearing, and imposed the minimum mandatory $300
fine, see 17-AM.R.S. § 207(3) (2017), and a
fully suspended sixty-day jail term, subject to one year of
administrative release with conditions that include no
contact with the victim or her family, and psychological and
sexual harassment counseling. Leon filed a timely notice of
appeal. See 15 M.R.S. § 2115 (2017); M.R. App.
Leon contends that the conviction should be set aside
because, during deliberations, a juror reportedly felt some
pressure to find him guilty. In support of this contention,
Leon relies on the juror's statements to the
marshal. Leon failed to preserve this argument
because he chose to defer making any argument to the court
until after the court would consider the issue, thereby
effectively waiving his right to be heard. Consequently, we
review for obvious error, which Leon has the burden to
establish. See M.R.U. Crim. P. ...