Jury misconduct allegations cannot overturn FX trader guilty verdict

Maria Nikolova

Claims by a member of the jury that delivered the guilty verdict for former JPMorgan FX trader Akshay Aiyer fail to change the course of the proceedings.

Allegations about jury misconduct have failed to result in vacating the guilty verdict as to former JPMorgan FX trader Akshay Aiyer. On January 13, 2020, Judge John G. Koeltl of the New York Southern District Court signed an order stating claims made by one of the jury’s members after the return of the verdict would not lead to the Court vacating the verdict.

In November 2019, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against the defendant Akshay Aiyer for one count of conspiracy in restraint of trade in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1, the Sherman Act. He was convicted of conspiring to fix prices and rig bids in Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African (CEEMEA) currencies, which were generally traded against the USD and the EUR, from at least October 2010 through at least January 2013. The verdict was signed by all the jurors and confirmed by a poll of the jurors in open court. Following the verdict, a number of allegations of juror misconduct came to the Court’s attention.

On November 26, 2019, the same day the jury returned its verdict, Juror No. 6 sent a letter to the Court. As was the case for all jurors, Juror No. 6 had signed the verdict form and responded to the poll in open court affirming the verdict.

The letter made a series of allegations. Some of these allegations were that other jurors pressured Juror No. 6 into voting for a guilty verdict and that Juror No. 6 eventually acquiesced. Further, the letter suggested that various jurors were puzzled by the Court’s instructions during deliberation and that most of the deliberation was spent trying to understand what the Court’s instructions meant on various issues of law.

In the order issued on January 13, 2020, the Court finds that the allegations that Juror No. 6 was pressured during deliberations to vote for a guilty verdict do not rise to the level of coercion that would be sufficient to conduct a post-verdict inquiry or to impeach the verdict. The allegations of intrajury pressure are not specific enough to require a post-verdict inquiry, the Court notes.

Judge Koeltl concedes that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has suggested that in extreme circumstances, allegations of intrajury pressure may rise to the level necessary to impeach the verdict, such as “credible allegations of threats of violence leveled by one juror by another”. In general, however, mere intrajury verbal pressure is not an “outside influence” for purposes of an inquiry of juror misconduct and “vague and conclusory” allegations of intrajury pressure will not give rise to a post-verdict inquiry.

Further, in this case, Juror No. 6 eventually voted guilty, signed the verdict form, and affirmed his verdict when polled by the Court, the Order notes. The juror never brought any concerns to the Court’s attention during jury deliberations.

“The stability of jury verdicts would be imperiled if any dissatisfied juror could vote with the other jurors and then upset a unanimous verdict solemnly arrived at and affirmed in open court by the simple expedient of alleging pressure after the jury was discharged”, the Order states.

The allegations that the jury was confused by certain legal principles in this case do not warrant further inquiry, the Court finds, as those matters pertain to the jurors’ mental processes and should not become the subject of inquiry absent extraordinary circumstances not present in this case.

Finally, the Judge concludes that “the post hoc misgivings of a single juror are an insufficient basis to conduct a post-verdict inquiry”.

Hence, the Court finds no basis to vacate the jury’s verdict based on these allegations.

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