GRPD detective causes mistrial over contact with juror

Posted at 6:35 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 18:35:03-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The ACLU of Michigan is pushing for disciplinary action against a Grand Rapids Police detective accused of jury tampering.

Detective Robert Zabriskie, a 24-year veteran with the department, self-reported a text message exchange he had with a juror who was deliberating in the case of Michael Thompson in Kent County, held in December.

Zabrieski stated he had no connection to the case and had not worked on it. The juror reached out to the detective saying, "Jury duty is a nightmare. Never again. That is all."

The day after the text message exchange, Zabrieski told the judge that he initially thought his friend was joking and replied, "This is not a nightmare. We need good people to show up and say they don't have a preconceived notions about guilt or innocence and then, find the defendant guilty. Duh. LOL."

The friend continues, "I cannot tell details, but it is horrible. Fellow juror is disgruntled. Don't know who to talk to. Like flipping out, crying, stomping feet, obnoxious."

The other juror was not convinced of a guilty verdict while the detective's longtime friend said she and other jurors were ready for a guilty verdict.

Detective Zabrieski then encourages the juror to tell the judge or write the bailiff a note due to the juror's 'intimidating' behavior towards the rest of the group.

The woman then describes via text the other juror refusing to speak via handraising, calling it 'obnoxious,' adding she 'went off.'

The detective follows up, "Is this a black lady?" And she says, "Yes."

The ACLU says this would consider as jury tampering, also calling it racial discrimination.

"The fact that the police officer pushed to have a juror removed because she was black is a serious issue. People have a constitutional right to a jury of their peers in a criminal trial and removing jurors because of their race strikes at the heart of that important constitutional right and endangers the right to a fair criminal trial.”

The ACLU is also pushing for more transparency in how the officer was disciplined following two investigations into the matter.

The Grand Rapids Police Department released the following statement:

"The criminal investigation was conducted by Michigan State Police and reviewed by the Ottawa County Prosecutor's Office and found no evidence of jury tampering. The internal affairs review found Detective Zabriskie violated department policy. The city did issue disciplinary action as a result of the IAU review. The disciplinary action is a personnel matter and, as such, not appropriate to comment on further."