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Fleiss’ Attorneys Seek Immunity for Jurors : Courts: Defense motion is part of an effort to establish misconduct by panel and gain a new trial for the convicted Hollywood madam.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lawyers seeking a new trial for convicted Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss asked a judge Monday to grant immunity from prosecution to jurors who have admitted discussing the case outside of court before reaching a verdict.

The immunity motion, part of an effort by Fleiss’ attorneys to develop evidence of jury misconduct that could result in a new trial, was filed shortly before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Judith L. Champagne agreed to a defense request for a one-week continuance in Fleiss’ sentencing hearing.

The case, including any action on the new motion, was reset for Jan. 30 because chief defense attorney Anthony P. Brooklier was out of state Monday on another criminal matter.

In their written motion, defense attorneys contend that immunity is necessary “so that substantive testimony may be taken at the hearing of Ms. Fleiss’ motion for new trial.” Without such testimony, defense attorney Donald B. Marks said, all five jurors who have stated in sworn statements that they discussed the case outside the courtroom have indicated that they would refuse to repeat such possibly incriminating testimony in court. Among topics that jurors said they discussed were the possible sentences for Fleiss.

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Fleiss, 28, was convicted in December on charges of pandering and operating a high-class call girl ring. Shortly afterward, her lawyers filed a motion for a new trial, citing juror misconduct based on the jurors’ statements.

Several jurors in the case have indicated to lawyers and reporters that they were surprised the pandering conviction carried mandatory prison time of at least three years. They indicated that they had believed that a cocaine-related charge--on which they acquitted Fleiss--carried more severe penalties. Marks claimed Monday that out-of-court discussions among jurors on such matters clearly affected their verdict. “If they didn’t consider the penalty (during their deliberations), it would have been a hung jury,” he said.

Fleiss’ lawyers recently filed an additional request for a new trial, charging prosecutors with misconduct based on a statement to the press by a high-ranking district attorney’s official that prosecutors were considering holding jurors in contempt for having discussed the case outside of court.

Fleiss faces a mandatory prison sentence of from three years to eight years and eight months for her conviction on three of five pandering counts.

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