RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Lawyers for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Thursday he should get a new trial on corruption charges because the jury in his case was potentially biased and may have acted improperly.
McDonnell's lawyers filed court documents saying U.S. District Judge James Spencer did not properly examine whether potential jurors had been unfairly swayed by pre-trial news coverage. Defense attorneys also argued that Spencer should have investigated a potential claim that jurors who were ultimately picked may have discussed the trial among themselves before they were allowed to do so.
Spencer presided over the nearly six-week trial that ended Sept. 4 when the jury convicted Bob McDonnell on 11 counts and his wife, Maureen, on nine. The McDonnells were convicted of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements.
Following the trial, McDonnell asked to be acquitted or granted a new trial because they contended prosecutors failed to prove they performed any "official acts" on behalf of Williams. On Thursday, his attorneys expanded on their argument.
"Even before Mr. McDonnell was indicted, opinion-makers in the media already convicted him," McDonnell's attorneys wrote.
The defense attorneys said Spencer's decision to deny their request to interview each of the approximately 150 potential jurors individually merits a new trial.
Juror Louis DeNitto was dismissed during the trial after his lawyer, James Watson, called prosecutors and said DeNitto had called Watson to discuss the case and indicated that the other jurors may have discussed the case, according to McDonnell's lawyers. After interviewing DeNitto and Watson, Spencer dismissed DeNitto but did not interview each remaining juror about whether they had improperly begun discussing the case.
Bob McDonnell's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6. Maureen McDonnell's is Feb. 20.