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Anand Jon case could end in mistrial

March 17, 2009 22:47 IST

Four months after a jury found fashion designer Anand Jon guilty on 14 felony and two misdemeanour counts, the Los Angeles County Superior Court is yet to give an order on punishment despite taking the matter up twice. Jon, meanwhile, languishes in the county jail's solitary confinement without bail.

In the interim, questions have risen over the way the police and the prosecution handled the case, and it is widely expected that the court will proclaim a mistrial when it takes up the case again April 1.

"The prosecution and police did not look for justice. They only wanted to convict an innocent person and put him behind bars," Jon's sister Sanjana Abraham, who spearheads a campaign to release Jon, said.

Attorney Ronald Richards, who recently took charge of Anand Jon's defence, echoes that sentiment. "Anand Jon was a victim of one of the greatest acts of interference by a prosecutor in the history of LA County. The Constitution was shredded right before Jon's eyes."

The prosecutor's office, which during the trial was prompt in responding to media calls, has avoided comment. The defence attorneys have given sealed motions against the prosecution to Judge David Wesley, which are yet to be unsealed.

Jon's attorneys are asking for a new trial on two counts. In the first, Juror number 12 asked in course of the trial to speak to Sanjana, who, since she was not a witness in the case, was free to speak to anyone she liked.

The defence informed the court and the prosecution of the request, and said it proposed to carry out a sting operation by recording what the juror had to say. The prosecution, however, intercepted the juror and did not allow him to meet with Sanjana. This, says the defence, meant that Jon's lawyers could not discover what the juror had in mind.

The defence is now asking that the court find out who authorized the interception. 'If the names extend high enough to disqualify the entire office from prosecuting a new trial, the case would be tried by the state attorney general's office,' Richards told the local media.

'If it happened during deliberations, it would have been unheard of for the court not to know -- and for the judge not to have questioned the juror. Either the juror did something wrong or he didn't. The judge must have thought nothing bad had happened, because he let deliberations go on,' USC law professor Jean Rosenbluth, a former federal prosecutor, was quoted in local media.

Richards said the defence hopes to prove the verdict against Jon was tainted, and that some jurors were addressing issues other than the charges that had been brought against the defendant.

The second count the defence is relying on to call for mistrial is alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The defence claims the prosecution threatened Eric Chase, one of the defence attorneys, with arrest at one point, and disbarment at another.

The prosecution had initially painted Jon as a serial rapist, but dropped 43 counts even before the case came to court. In trial, the prosecution relied on a single charge of rape, I which the rape kit had turned in a negative result and examining doctors had seen no sign of trauma.

"It is also important to note that Anand Jon passed a lie detector test regarding the testimony from that same complaining witness," Sanjana wrote.

George Joseph in New York