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Wesley Snipes' lawyers want to interview jurors

Two weeks ago, a federal appeals court upheld actor Wesley Snipes' conviction and sentence for failing to file tax returns.

Days later, federal prosecutors asked a judge to revoke the bail for Snipes and order him to begin serving a three-year prison sentence.

Now, Snipes' attorneys have asked the court to allow them to question the jurors who convicted him two years ago, saying the actor's constitutional rights to a fair trial likely were violated.

In a motion filed July 23, lawyer Daniel Meachum says that on July 16, the same day the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta denied Snipes' appeal, he got an unsolicited e-mail from a person who had served on the jury.

In the e-mail, which had a subject line of "I was on his jury, maybe I can help," the sender says that certain jurors presumed Snipes was guilty before the trial began.

Snipes, 47, had originally been charged with failing to file tax returns from 1999 to 2004, while he earned nearly $38 million.

An Ocala jury found him guilty in 2008 of three misdemeanor counts of failure to file income taxes. The jury acquitted him on three of the six misdemeanor failure-to-file charges, and also found him not guilty of two felony charges that included conspiracy and filing a false claim with the IRS.

"We thought we were making the right deal because we did not think he would go to jail for not filing taxes," the juror wrote in the e-mail. "There were 3 on the jury that felt this way and told us he was guilty before they even heard the first piece of evidence going against what the judge had said."

Snipes' attorneys want to interview the jurors and get an evidentiary hearing.

In a motion filed Thursday, Meachum also urged the court to deny prosecutors' request to revoke Snipes' bond, saying that the actor plans to soon file a motion for a new trial, based partly on the allegations about jurors and the fact that a witness in the trial, Kenneth Starr, is now under indictment and is accused of defrauding celebrity clients out of millions of dollars.

The court has not yet ruled on the motions.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8643.

Wesley Snipes' lawyers want to interview jurors 07/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 30, 2010 9:34pm]
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