By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a former Casper gynecologist’s claim of juror misconduct in a trial where he was convicted of sexually abusing patients, new court filings showed.
The court said Paul Michael Harnetty’s attorneys provided no additional evidence to support his claim of juror misconduct. This is Harnetty’s second appeal.
“He could have petitioned the district court for additional time, requested the opportunity for discovery, or any other appropriate order,” the majority of justices stated in its opinion. “[Harnetty’s investigator’s] affidavit, alone, was not sufficient.”
Harnetty was convicted in 2018 of sexually abusing two of his patients, one of whom was pregnant at the time, and sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison.
One patient said at Harnetty’s trial that he digitally penetrated her in multiple exams. Another patient said Harnetty would attempt to stimulate her during pelvic exams.
He later appealed his conviction to the Wyoming Supreme Court, but his sentence was upheld. During that appeal, he argued that his position as a doctor granted him authority over patients, as the prosecution claimed.
But in 2020, he filed a petition with a Natrona County district court, claiming that his investigator discovered evidence of juror misconduct in post-appeal interviews.
Harnetty’s investigator said that during these interviews conducted with jurors in December 2019, one of the jurors discussed alleged crimes Harnetty committed that had been published in Wyoming news outlets, but not talked about during the trial.
These allegations included Harnetty “rap[ing] a child,” sexual harassment of a nurse and a supposed move to complete his medical residency due to inappropriate behavior with female colleagues.
Jurors are not supposed to consider or read media reports on a trial to protect their impartiality toward a defendant.
The court said Harnetty’s investigator only provided an affidavit claiming that the juror commented about the alleged crimes the former doctor committed in Georgia, but gave no further evidence.
The attorneys representing the state of Wyoming in the district court case argued that the information in the affidavit was hearsay. Most of the Wyoming Supreme Court justices agreed.
However, Justice Lynne Boomgaarden dissented and wrote she would have allowed the evidentiary opinion to happen.