Juror with toothache held in contempt
LEAGUE CITY – A Galveston County judge found a juror in contempt Wednesday for complaining when the court refused to excuse her for dental surgery.
Sandra Harvey of League City was selected Monday to hear testimony in Judge Susan Criss’ 212th District Court during the trial of a man representing himself in a stalking case. Later that night, Harvey’s toothache escalated to a bout of unbearable pain, she said. Harvey arranged a 9 a.m. Tuesday dental appointment.
Harvey let the dentist speak with the clerk, saying she might need a root canal, but the court still required her presence Tuesday and Wednesday. While medicated, suffering from an infected tooth and feeling generally miserable, Harvey asked for a ride to court both days, which a bailiff provided.
"They put me in the jury, and I was not allowed to talk to the judge until the first break," Harvey said of Tuesday’s appearance. "I explained again and asked to be dismissed, and she said no."
Harvey’s dentist performs surgery only on Wednesdays, but Criss cited law that prevented her from releasing Harvey from service. The defense objected to using an alternate juror Tuesday but had a change of heart Wednesday.
"The judge said if I did anything to disrupt the court or her, I would go to jail," Harvey said. "I feel very threatened, intimidated and humiliated, let alone still being in pain."
Because of the pain, Harvey said she couldn’t perform her civic duty.
Criss ordered Harvey to appear at the bench Wednesday morning and asked her whether she had spoken to anyone about the trial.
Harvey told the judge she spoke with seven people and sent The Daily News an e-mail detailing her painful ordeal. None of the conversations included facts of the case, Harvey said.
Criss reminded Harvey of the strict instructions she gave jurors. They weren’t to discuss the case in any manner, not even with spouses, per state law, which Criss said she was bound to enforce.
"I have an obligation to see all laws are followed in this case (so) each side does have a fair trial," Criss said. "I have to do everything I can to make sure the case is tried once and to preserve the jury verdict. I’m willing to be the bad guy if I have to do that."
Criss found Harvey in contempt and ordered her to pay a $100 fine. Unless both defense and prosecutors agreed, Criss said she couldn’t release Harvey from duty, and Harvey, walking unsteady and nearly in tears, was escorted back to the jury room.
Criss then asked the defense and prosecutors their opinions on the matter. After a short meeting, they agreed to use the alternate juror.
"You couldn’t have done this yesterday, could you?" Criss asked the defense and prosecution.
Harvey left the Justice Center, hoping she hadn’t missed her dentist’s window for surgery.
The jury found the defendant Tholonaus Pomier guilty of the felony stalking charge, Criss said. The punishment phase of the trial is scheduled for today.