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Emily Welker, Published August 31 2013

Jurors step in to give Fargo doctor his life, license back

FARGO – They have the legal power to take away your money, your freedom, and even, sometimes, your life. But after one recent criminal trial that ended in an acquittal, they did what they could to give one man his life back.

“I think that they felt that he had been wrongfully accused by his wife,” said Bob Hoy, who successfully defended Fargo doctor Jon Norberg at his criminal trial. Norberg was accused by the state of drugging his then-wife, Alonna, and then having sex with her unconscious body.

“He had really been put through the wringer,” Hoy said.

Norberg’s medical license was suspended in January 2012 shortly after he was charged in Cass County District Court, and by the time jurors found him not guilty in November 2012, his house was in foreclosure. Then, his wife sued him for medical malpractice and Sanford Health sued him in February for failing to fulfill the terms of his contract with them.

But the jurors who acquitted Norberg were working behind the scenes on his behalf. Shortly after they reached their verdict, some jurors called Hoy to ask how they could help Norberg get his license back.

It’s a move area attorneys agree is something they’ve never seen before from a jury.

Hoy said all but one juror signed an affidavit presented to the North Dakota Medical Board stating Norberg’s wife had lied in her accusations, and that he should get his medical license back.

“We, the jury, believe it would be a travesty of justice and do a great disservice to the residents of the State of North Dakota if Dr. Jon Norberg was not allowed to regain his medical license,” the affidavit reads. “It is our finding that he is a careful, cautious and excellent surgeon.”

Defense attorney Bruce Quick said he has seen other jurors reach out to defendants after they acquit them. He said it happened about five years ago when a young man who had been charged with multiple sexual offenses against four young girls was acquitted.

“The jury foreperson wrote a letter to his mom saying he should never have been charged,” Quick said.

Quick and public defender Steve Mottinger said jurors will occasionally contact them after

trials on felony criminal charges, mostly after acquittals.

“Sometimes, they want to give you insight as to what they did, find out what the defendant is going to do, wish them luck,” Mottinger said. “Very rarely, I’ve been contacted by a juror after a conviction.”

Feedback from jurors is prized by defense attorneys and prosecutors so they can identify what did and didn’t work during a trial.

Some defense attorneys make it a practice to contact jurors to see if there are any issues that are appealable, said Quick, but even if jurors apply the law wrongly, the verdict still stands.

Prosecutors often send out a standard questionnaire to jurors after a verdict asking for similar information. Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said the questionnaires will ask jurors how the experience was for them, whether prosecutors were fair, and how they felt about the witnesses.

Criminal defense attorneys agreed that jurors in high-stakes cases are the ones most likely to seek information on a defendant after a trial, in part because of the enormous responsibility of determining a stranger’s fate.

“I think jurors take their jobs so seriously in the Midwest,” said Quick.

Hoy said he is happy for Norberg, who was given back his medical license by the state board in August.

Norberg said after getting his license back that he hoped to again practice in the Fargo area.

In the meantime, he still faces the Sanford lawsuit, as well as his wife’s medical malpractice case.

“He lost a lot from false accusations,” Hoy said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541