While James Vines sits in state prison for assaulting a Rockland jail correction officer, he will get a new trial in Clarkstown Justice Court on a misdemeanor harassment charge.
Vines, 51, the son of the late Clarkstown supervisor and judge William Vines,had been convicted of the second-degree aggravated harassment before Justice Scott Ugell in December 2011.
The Appellate Division reversed the jury conviction on Sept. 5.
Following a trial, the defense lawyer counsel questioned the alternate juror, who stated that she had participated in the deliberations. Based on her comment, the defense moved for a mistrial.
The appellate panel ruled the judge incorrectly treated the defense motion seeking to set aside the verdict, rather than as a mistrial.
The four-judge panel ruled Vines right to a fair trial had been violated by the alternative juror’s participation.
“At the heart of this right is the need to ensure that jury deliberations are conducted in secret, and not influenced or intruded upon by outside factors,” the court wrote. “We must bear in mind that the confidentiality of the thought process of jurors, their privileged exchange of views, and the freedom to be candid in their deliberations are the soul of the jury system.”
“In theory, the presence of alternate jurors during jury deliberations might prejudice a defendant in two different ways: either because the alternates actually participated in the deliberations, verbally or through body language’; or because the alternates’ presence exerted a chilling’ effect on the regular jurors,” the ruling stated. “Since it is clear from the record that the alternate juror participated in the jury’s deliberations, a new trial is required.”
Vines faced more than 30 charges of harassment involving confrontations with neighbors and others before being sent to the county jail in 2012 on a charge of trespassing at his father’s house and violating an order obtained by his sister for him to stay away from the family.
He was sentenced to three years in state prison and 18 months of post release supervision for assaulting the corrections officer by County Judge Charles Apotheker. He becomes eligible to seek parole in February 2015.