Prejudicial In11uence on Jury of Newspaper Published During Trial-People v. Purvis

Defendant had been paroled after serving four years of a sentence for second degree murder. While on parole, he was tried for another homicide and convicted of murder in the first degree. In separate penalty trials, juries had twice assessed the death sentence, which, on both occasions, had been set aside by the reviewing court. During the third trial, the Sunday newspaper in the local county published a front-page article attacking the leniency of the parole system, attributing the area’s high crime rate partly to the recidivist tendencies of parolees, and quoting the county sheriff’s opinion that defendant should be sentenced to death. The following day the prosecution began its closing argument and, over defense objections, made reference to the article. The jury adjourned for the evening without receiving instructions to disregard the statements in the newspaper and, the next day, returned a verdict imposing the death penalty. On appeal to the Supreme Court of California, held, reversed and remanded for a new trial, two judges dissenting. The making of public statements concerning the pending trial by the sheriff, directing the attention of the jury to these statements by the prosecution, and failure of the trial court to instruct the jury to disregard the newspaper article constituted prejudicial misconduct and deprived defendant of a fair and impartial trial. People v. Purvis, 60 Cal. 2d 323, 384 P.2d 424 (1963).