Marilyn Charlesworth was one of 12 jurors who convicted Michael Blagg of murdering his wife Jennifer in 2001
No one was ever supposed to know Marilyn Charlesworth’s name.
As a juror in the high-profile Michael Blagg murder trial in Grand Junction, Colorado, her name should have been kept a secret. But Charlesworth claims a friend gave her name to a reporter shortly after the trial concluded – opening up an unprecedented can of worms. Now Blagg’s conviction has been thrown out, and Charlesworth is facing criminal charges of her own as well as a lawsuit.
“It’s absolutely frightening. We could lose everything,” Charlesworth told 9Wants to Know.
In 2004, Charlesworth was one of 12 jurors who convicted Blagg of murdering his wife Jennifer in 2001. However, after Charlesworth’s name was leaked, Blagg’s public defender filed a motion in 2005 to get the conviction dismissed on the grounds that her eyesight had been poor during the trial and that she’d failed to inform the court of a prescription medicine she was on at the time of the trial.
Five years later, the judge finally rejected the motion, letting Blagg’s conviction stand.
But then something even worse came to light. In 2013, Charlesworth attended a Grand Junction City Council meeting, where she said she “was a victim of domestic violence for ten years,” 9Wants to Know reports.
The problem? It contradicted a statement on her juror questionnaire, filled out nine years before, where she’d answered “no” when asked: “Have you, a family member, or close friend ever been involved in domestic violence?”
Blagg’s defense latched on to that two-letter response, which finally convinced the judge to throw out the conviction. “[Charlesworth’s] deliberate failure to disclose her domestic violence involvement makes this not a close question at all,” wrote Judge David Bottger in 2014.
Shortly afterwards, the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office charged Charlesworth with contempt. The office is asking a judge to punish her with up to six months in jail – and a six-figure fine.
Since the revelation, Charlesworth has become a hermit, barely able to leave her house, such is the vitriol leveled at her on the streets of Grand Junction. “There’s a lot of anger in this community directed mostly at Mrs. Charlesworth,” District Attorney Pete Hautzinger told 9Wants to Know. “I have people stopping me on the street on a regular basis saying it’s just frustrating to have to do the whole thing over again.”
But he admits that he finds it “troubling” that jurors can be investigated years after a trial has concluded.
Meanwhile, Charlesworth’s friends say she didn’t understand what constitutes domestic violence when she answered that question in 2004. “It’s very subjective, how you feel when you go through it, how you would answer that question,” friend Anne Landman said.
But Hautzinger says Charlesworth only has herself to blame. “She’s the one who chose to go to city council in a public hearing that was televised and dramatically declare that [she] was a victim of domestic violence,” he said, adding that he believes that the contempt charge is fair. “I think it’s reasonable to ask the court to consider imposing some significant financial penalty on her,” he said.
Blagg’s retrial will hopefully begin before the end of the year. Charlesworth is due in court on Wednesday for a hearing.
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