Friday, September 19, 2014

Juror's Internet Research Leads to New Trial for Death Rown Inmate

This is the second time that I have seen a death row conviction overturned because of a juror's improper use of the Internet.  The first case, Dimas-Martinez v. Arkansas, involved a juror who could not stop tweeting about the trial. The juror's conduct in this latest case from Pennsylvania seems far more problematic. Here, the juror researched the defendant online and discovered his past criminal convictions. The juror then discussed this information with other jurors.

Allentown WFMZ: Juror's misconduct leads to new trial for convicted killer

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What is Life Worth?: New Law Review Article

Ralph A. Peeples

Catherine T. Harris

Abstract (to read the entire article go here):     
This article examines the amount recovered in 118 wrongful death cases filed in a single jurisdiction (North Carolina) over a five year period. The dataset is unique, in that it includes both jury verdicts and settlements. Although the injury -- death -- was the same in these cases, the amount recovered varied greatly. Several patterns emerge from the data. First, there is a strong negative correlation between age and the amount recovered. Second, the manner in which the decedent died seems to make a difference. Violent deaths, for example, led to larger recoveries than did non-violent deaths. Third, jury verdicts produced much larger recoveries than did settlements. Finally, our results underscore the critical role of insurance in these cases.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jurors Increasingly Prefer LWP Over the Death Penalty


The article below, which focuses on the state of Ohio, highlights a growing trend around the country. When given the choice between the death penalty and life without parole (LWP), jurors increasingly choose the latter. The article gives three reasons for the decline in death penalty verdicts. First, jurors now have  the option of LWP. Prior to the mid-1990s, jurors did not have that choice at least in Ohio. Second, the high number of DNA exonerations. Third, the number of recently botched executions.

Youngstown Vindicator: Increasingly, Ohio juries choosing life in prison instead of death

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Defendant Sentenced to 15 Years for Jury Tampering

Sticking with yesterday's theme of improper contact with a sitting juror, a Louisiana woman (Alicia Tucker) was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiring to commit jury tampering.  The tampering occurred during a three-way telephone call from jail involving the prospective juror, Ms. Tucker and Ms. Tucker's son (LaMondre Tucker) who was on trial for capital murder. Ms. Tucker and her son wanted the juror to change her prior voir dire testimony about the death penalty and knowing the defendant so that she could sit on the defendant's jury trial.

From the press reports on this story, it appears that the 15-year sentence handed down to Ms. Tucker was excessive in light of her actual role in the jury tampering. I think part of the problem here is that jury tampering arises so infrequently that judges are not really what constitutes an appropriate sentence. With that said, 15 years is way too high.

ArkLaTex: Alicia Tucker sentenced to 15 years for jury tampering

Monday, September 15, 2014

Defendant's Facebook Activity Leads To Charges Of Improper Influence Of A Juror

A defendant who was recently convicted of aggravated robbery has been charged with improper influence of a juror. Apparently, the defendant, during his trial for aggravated robbery, was communicating with one of his jurors via Facebook. Interestingly, despite his Facebook interactions with the juror he was still found guilty, which makes me wonder whether this concern over jurors and social media is a bit overblown.

Memphis Commercial Appeal: Convicted robber was talking to juror on Facebook during his trial

Friday, September 12, 2014

Judges Talking to Jurors in Criminal Cases: Why U.S. Judges Do It so Differently from Just About Everyone Else

Paul Marcus


Abstract (to read the entire article go here):     
Finally, the evidence has all been heard, the lawyers have given closing arguments to the jurors, and now it is up to the trial judge; it is her turn. Of course, she will instruct the jury on the law, no question about that. But this was a very lengthy multiple defendant trial. That experienced, savvy trial judge is no doubt tempted to go beyond stating to the jurors the mere legal rules (the usual jury instructions). She might also prefer to talk with them about the evidence: comment on particular items, summarize the overall evidence and the arguments put forth by the lawyers on both sides. After all, we all want to be certain that these lay people understand just what this case was all about. And who better to tell them about the evidence than the judge? 
If this judge sits in the United States, she had better resist that temptation. Otherwise, she is very likely to be reversed on appeal, perhaps even disciplined. But, elsewhere in the common law world, that judge would not be at all concerned about going beyond the giving of jury instructions. In fact, if she does not, she is likely to be reversed on appeal, perhaps even disciplined. 

Why the difference between U.S. judges and judges from other common law based nations, with similar roots in the English criminal justice system? Are Americans really that different from their English-speaking cousins on this point? What explains that difference? And which nation gets it right? Those are the questions I attempt to answer in this article. 

To do so, I take an unconventional approach. I discuss the well-established legal principles one finds in cases, statutes, and rules in the five focal nations of Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, and the United States. In my research, however, I sought to go beyond this, to find out the way in which the practice really occurs. In short, I was trying to determine whether the trial judges truly acted so very differently in the various nations. I was in touch with more than eighty individuals in these five nations. Most I knew; all were experienced in the world of criminal justice, as trial or appeals judges (state or federal), prosecution or defense lawyers, or academics who either left the practice or studied it carefully. I met with them, or spoke with them on the phone, or corresponded with them, or exchanged email messages. This article lays out the surprising answers to the questions I asked these individuals on the practice of instructing jurors.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

People's Grand Jury Panels and the State's Inquisitorial Institutions: Prosecution Review Commissions in Japan and People's Supervisors in China

Hiroshi Fukurai

Zhuoyu Wang (picture unavailable)

Abstract (to read the entire article go here):

A new and exciting breed of the grand jury system has emerged in East Asia: Japan introduced the revised system of Prosecution Review Commissions (“PRCs”) in 2009 and the People’s Republic of China implemented the System of People’s Supervisor in 2010. Contrary to the United States’ grand jury system, which has often been criticized as the government’s rubber stamp institution or even labeled as the “laughingstock” of US criminal procedure, these two new citizen panels adopted in two of the most powerful countries in East Asia have begun to transform their legal landscape by giving ordinary people the authority to monitor and check government and corporate decisions and activities. These oversight institutions have also begun to initiate forced prosecution of unethical actions and illegal conduct of government officials, industrialists, economic elites, and even foreign soldiers stationed in the country.

The structure of this article is as follows. Part I examines Japan’s revised PRC system and how its implementation facilitated the forced prosecution of a political powerbroker, past presidents of Japan’s powerful corporations, a government bureaucrat, and US military personnel stationed in Japan. The historical genealogy of China’s People’s Supervisor System (“PSS”) is the focus of Part II. Part III examines specific criminal cases reviewed and assessed by the grand juries in both countries. Beginning in the early 1990s, many East and Central Asian countries began to introduce a new system of lay participation in criminal justice procedure. Active participation of citizens in the justice system and the new civic oversight of government agencies and corporate elites can lead to even further transparency of judicial systems in East Asia. Part IV then examines the socio-political ramifications of these new systems in Japan and China and makes critical suggestions to improve the representativeness of civic panels and the quality of their deliberations.