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Anand Jon juror tried to meet with defendant's sister before conviction, defense lawyers say

They say Alvin Dymally, a Los Angeles building inspector, twice spoke by phone with her near the end of the trial, possibly seeking a date. Prosecutors accuse her of working to subvert the verdicts.

July 05, 2009|Jack Leonard

The fate of Beverly Hills fashion designer Anand Jon Alexander appeared sealed last year when 12 jurors found him guilty of sexually assaulting young women in a trial that made international headlines.

But nearly eight months later, the focus of the case has shifted from the charges against the Indian-born designer to accusations against one of the jurors who convicted him.

Juror No. 12, as he was known during the trial, stands accused of improperly contacting the defendant's sister before the verdicts. The claim has thrown the conviction into doubt and raised the prospect of a repeat of the high-profile trial.

Defense attorneys allege that the juror, a seemingly mild-mannered Los Angeles City building inspector, twice reached out to the sister near the end of the trial, possibly seeking a date, and then voted for a conviction after she refused to meet him alone.

The accusation has sparked a series of highly unusual court hearings.

Defense attorneys have accused district attorney's officials of sabotaging an investigation into the alleged misconduct. Prosecutors accuse the designer's sister of working to subvert the verdicts.

The juror, Alvin Dymally, insisted at a recent court hearing that his contact with the designer's sister came after the trial. But he invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination when defense attorneys produced a barely audible recording of a phone conversation they said was between the juror and Alexander's sister.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Harland Braun, a veteran criminal defense attorney who is representing the designer's sister. "It's a terrible thing that this juror has done. . . . He's basically jeopardized an entire criminal case."

Prosecutors this week said they believed Dymally did speak to Alexander's sister before the verdicts. But they said his contact amounted to little more than harmless flirting -- such as telling her, "I love your eyes" -- and did not affect the fairness of the trial.

District attorney's officials noted that Alexander reported the contact only after her brother was convicted.

"She hijacked this juror in an attempt to derail the jury system," Deputy Dist. Atty. Frances Young wrote.

Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley is scheduled to hear more testimony Monday before deciding whether to order a new trial. Prosecutors have raised concerns that the alleged victims might be unwilling to testify again at a new trial.

Alexander, 35, who goes by the professional name of Anand Jon, was once billed as an up-and-coming talent in the fashion industry. Newsweek magazine included him on a list of people to watch in 2007.

During the trial, the designer's team of high-profile attorneys portrayed him as a victim of false accusations. Some alleged victims, they said, were angry at the way he had treated them while others were hoping to profit financially.

But prosecutors described Alexander as a serial predator who targeted girls as young as 14. They said he used the promise of modeling jobs to lure them to his apartment, where he acted out sadistic fantasies.

After listening to harrowing testimony from more than a dozen women, some of whom wept on the witness stand, jurors found Alexander guilty of raping one woman and sexually assaulting six others. The conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Defendants have a right to have their cases heard by 12 impartial jurors. To win a new trial, defense attorneys need to show that just one juror committed misconduct that prevented a fair trial, said Jean Rosenbluth, a law professor at USC and a former federal prosecutor.

"Common sense dictates that if everyone else thinks he's guilty, then the guy is guilty, so why does it matter what this one juror did? But that's not how our system works," Rosenbluth said.

Both the juror and Alexander's sister were subjects of controversy during the trial.

Several jurors complained to the judge during deliberations that juror No. 12 was refusing to properly deliberate and had made up his mind about the evidence. Prosecutors argued at the time that the juror should be replaced. But the judge sided with Alexander's lawyers and ruled he should remain.

During the trial, prosecutors accused Alexander's sister, Sanjana, of talking to jurors in the hallway and trying to intimidate witnesses. They also said she tailed two alleged victims one weekend in a short Robert Ludlum-type car chase.

She has denied the claims. The judge ordered her not to communicate with witnesses or jurors in the case and threatened to otherwise hold her in contempt, prosecutors said.

Sanjana Alexander, also a fashion designer, came to the United States from India in 1992 with her younger brother, whom she described in court papers as "my strength, my light, my calm, my shelter."

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