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They're called jury instructions for a reason!

Apr 19, 2013


(Paul Daquilante / reporter)  If you're selected to serve on a jury, you really need to follow the judge's orders.

To a T. Just do as you're told.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Graves presided over a recent armed robbery trial. With the jury seated, Graves gave them instructions.

He told the jurors the trial would last three or four days, that each one of them was to pay close attention to all of the witnesses and any of the evidence presented by the attorneys for the prosecution and the defense. The jurors were explicitly instructed that the use of cell phones during the trial was prohibited. That warning was issued several times.

Benjamin Kohler, a 26-year-old Salem resident, was a juror.

The deputy district attorney handling the case called to the witness stand a Salem police officer who investigated the robbery.

During his testimony, the officer provide a video recording of the interview he conducted with the defendant.  The courtroom lights were dimmed while the video played. That's when Graves noticed a light reflecting on Kohler's chest. The judge determined this juror was texting during the officer's testimony.

Wasn't he listening when the juror instructions were given?

Graves immediately called for a recess, cleared the courtroom and excused all of the jurors except Kohler.  He could not explain why he was texting.

The judge instructed a court security deputy to take Kohler into custody. He was transported to the Marion County Jail, booked on one count of contempt of court and sentenced to serve two days.

A previously selected alternate juror replaced Kohler.  The trial concluded and the defendant ultimately was convicted.

"The duty to serve as a juror must be taken very seriously," Graves said. "Every juror has the responsibility to devote his entire attention to the witnesses and evidence being presented.

"In this case, Mr. Kohler failed to meet his obligations and failed to honor the direction of this court.  My hope is that he will use his time in jail to reflect upon his behavior."

Graves also hoped his decision to hold Kohler in contempt will serve as a lesson to all future jurors.

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