Juror Accused of Perjury for Not Revealing Criminal Past : Courts: Record came to light when Bellflower man asked to be excused from panel for a day to attend a court hearing.
In a case prosecutors hope will spur other prospective jurors to tell the truth, a Torrance Superior Court juror has been charged with felony perjury for not disclosing his criminal record.
Larry Antonio Jones is the first person in at least 30 years to be prosecuted by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office for lying during jury selection, an office spokeswoman said.
Court officials discovered three days into a murder trial that Jones, 34, of Bellflower had failed to reveal four arrests. Jones prompted the discovery when he asked to be excused one morning so he could attend a hearing in Compton Municipal Court.
The stunned prosecutor, who had asked Jones during jury selection whether he or anybody close to him had “ever been involved in a criminal matter,” then requested Jones’ removal from the jury. The judge agreed.
A preliminary hearing on the perjury charge, filed in January, has been set for Sept. 5. Jones faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
Gilbert Garcetti, head deputy district attorney in the Torrance courthouse, said he wants to send a message to all jurors that they cannot lie under oath.
“It is difficult enough to do our jobs with a completely fair and impartial jury,” Garcetti said. “In every courthouse each day there probably is at least one juror who is less than candid. We just want them to know what the consequences can be.”
Jones has pleaded not guilty to the perjury charge. He said after a brief court hearing Thursday that he thought he did not have to mention a drug case pending against him because it was about to be dismissed.
“I felt like it wasn’t going to be part of my life,” he said. “I don’t have any felony convictions, so I figured (the question) didn’t apply to me.”
Jones said he was arrested that time because he was riding in a car with a friend who was carrying cocaine. When the car was stopped by police, the friend tried to hide the drugs, he said, spilling some on him.
“I knew I didn’t do anything wrong, but they said if I did drug diversion it would be like it never happened, so I did it,” Jones said.
Court records show he first was arrested in 1979 on suspicion of misdemeanor battery, but charges were never filed in that case. The next year, he was arrested for petty theft and vehicle tampering, and served 90 days in County Jail, Jones said.
In 1984, a warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear in court on a traffic ticket. Jones said he does not remember what happened in that case, and records do not show how it was resolved.
Asked why he did not reveal his other arrests during jury selection, Jones said he “wasn’t paying attention to the whole thing.”
“I felt like when they asked the question it just didn’t pertain to me,” he said. “Everybody gets arrested or stopped by the police . . . I just didn’t think about my arrests.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Julie Sulman said Jones was selected to sit on a murder trial jury that also was hearing evidence involving attempted murder and assault on a police officer.
Three days into the trial, Jones sent a message to Judge John P. Shook asking for the morning off so that he could appear in Compton Municipal Court. Shook granted the request without inquiry.
Sulman said she began wondering later what Jones would be doing in court. The next morning, she asked Shook to get more information from the juror. Jones then told them about the drug case.
“He said, yes, he had heard my questions and, yes, he understood my questions, but he said the arrest didn’t mean anything to him because he knew he didn’t have any cocaine,” Sulman said. “I would not have kept him on the jury if I had known that. It shows a mind-set to me of, ‘The cops are wrong. The cops are lying in my case, so they might be lying in others.’ ”
Jones was removed from the jury in April, 1990, but prosecutors delayed filing the perjury charge until this year because he was seriously injured in an auto accident soon after.
Deputy Public Defender James Cooper, who is representing Jones, said he believes the former warehouse worker was singled out for prosecution because he is black. Jones was removed from his jury shortly before another black juror was removed from a Torrance jury for allegedly showing bias toward police during deliberations on a murder case.
“The district attorney’s office in Torrance made a concerted effort to have that black juror removed from the case . . . and I think this is just vindictive behavior toward Mr. Jones in which they’re doing it again,” Cooper said.
Garcetti denied racism was involved.
“Race, ethnicity and gender is meaningless here,” he said. “We had solid evidence that the person in fact lied . . . and hopefully other members of the community, when they come in as prospective jurors will know that they cannot fudge on their answers, they cannot be deceitful.”