Sunday, August 31, 2008

Irish Juries

Think Tank: Jury Rules Do Not Do Us Justice
...The fact that Ireland has escaped such mishaps does not mean that our system of trial by jury is above scrutiny. As the entitlement of the jury to deliberate in secrecy is rightly considered to be a sacrosanct part of our legal system, a review of the quality of their decision making is not possible. But we can analyse the composition of such juries to check if they meet the key objective of being representative of society.

Of great concern, then, is the fact that large numbers of Irish professionals are either ineligible for jury service or enjoy the right to be automatically excused. The result is that few professionals ever enter a jury box. While it is understandable to exclude prison officers, lawyers and gardai on the basis that such occupations are directly related to the administration of justice, it is difficult to know why vets, pilots, nurses and dentists are being excused...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Prosecutors Respond to Defendant's Claim of Jury Misconduct

Evidence rules nix Noe's bid for a new trial, prosecutors say
An affidavit claiming juror misconduct accompanying Thomas Noe's motion for a new trial cannot be considered under Ohio's Rules of Evidence, so the onetime Republican Party insider's request for a new day in court should be denied, the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office said yesterday...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Juries in Baltimore: Can They Be Fixed?

Rebuilding Trust is Key to Making Juries Work
I can't say I'm surprised at the way my reaction to the Abell Foundation's jury study has been presented ("Jury study raises hackles in city," Aug. 18). Controversy does sell papers. But unfortunately, citizens are again being given a distorted view of a very serious issue. Many of us in the criminal justice system already know what the Abell study has concluded - that Baltimore juries are less likely to convict defendants than juries in Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.But the study glossed over some of the issues affecting jury decisions. And as the editorial "And justice for all?" (Aug. 21) noted, one critical issue here is citizen trust in law enforcement...

For more information on the Abell report see the following:

Jury study targets very real problemBaltimore Sun, United States - Aug 21, 2008According to reporter Julie Bykowicz's disturbing article on the findings of the Abell Foundation's jury study, Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. ...
And justice for all?Baltimore Sun, United States - Aug 21, 2008Witness intimidation in Baltimore had become such a threat to prosecuting criminals that State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy led a campaign to better ...

Fearful Witnesses, Juror Doubts Work Against Cases
Darryl Neal pleaded guilty to having a loaded handgun in his maroon Acura in South Baltimore's Curtis Bay neighborhood. Maurice Turner pleaded guilty in connection with a shooting that left two men injured in Park Heights.Both suspects had initially been charged with crimes that carried hefty sentences - five years without the possibility of parole for Neal and life in prison for Turner. Both got plea deals and ended up serving far less time. Neal was sent home on 30 months' probation and Turner is in prison for five years.The reasons prosecutors had to accept pleas in those cases - questionable police conduct and uncooperative witnesses - are at the crux of a debate that has long raged through the city and gained even more prominence with the emergence of an Abell Foundation report that publicized what everyone already knew: Convictions are easier in the suburbs than in Baltimore.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jurors and Jumpsuits

Jail attire can sway jurors, lawyers say
When Scott Peterson and O.J. Simpson appeared at hearings leading up to their respective murder trials, they consistently donned suits, not the jail-issued jumpsuits they were required to wear between court appearances. The judges concluded that if prospective jurors saw them on TV in jail threads, they might be left with impressions of guilt. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Russell Scott applied the same logic Wednesday when he broke with tradition in the county court system, ruling that Carmel Valley double-murder defendant Jack Kenney can wear street clothes at his pretrial hearings, which so far have attracted hordes of news photographers for both print and video...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jury Selection/Service Pointers

Phoenix DUI Cases - Part III - Jury Duty
Phoenix DUI lawyers who practice regularly in Phoenix Municipal Court understand that knowing the system and how the court works goes a long way towards securing drunk driving clients the best possible result. In previous articles, we examined the pretrial procedures for DUI cases in Phoenix. In this article, we discuss the first stage of a trial, jury selection.

What's Your Juror Taking?
As the percentage of Americans taking various medications skyrockets, some jury consultants and lawyers have begun asking potential jurors what kinds of medications they are taking.They're concerned about potential side effects associated with medications that can affect a person's ability to concentrate, sit for long periods of time and otherwise act as jurors.A secondary reason for asking is strategic — to bounce jurors they don't want and use medications as an excuse.

Jury Service 102: The lesson
This is the second article in my two-part series on Jury Duty. In Jury Duty 101, I reviewed the history of the jury system and important facts about before the date of jury service. In this part, I will discuss what happens during your jury service.It's 9 a.m. and you have parked in the correct garage, walked to the courthouse, passed through security and made it down to the basement of the courthouse. You enter the jury assembly room and check in. The jury commissioner provides orientation explaining jury selection procedures. If time permits, you will be shown a jury orientation video.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Explaining Hearsay to Jurors

U.S. v. Curry (7th Circuit Court of Appeals)

The court later received a question from one of the jurors, asking, “Why do some witnesses get to tell the Court what someone else said, like tellers can say what another teller said, but some witnesses can’t say what another person says, like the defendant couldn’t say what his brother said?” The judge gave a lengthy (four pages of trial transcript) answer to the jurors about the hearsay rules. Afterwards, Curry’s attorney requested a sidebar, and moved for a mistrial, based on the court’s answer. The jury found Curry guilty, and he appealed. To read more go here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Juror Misconduct

Coingate defendant Wants New Trial

Attorneys for convicted coin dealer Thomas W. Noe want a new trial because the jury foreman has said that jurors were confused by the evidence and found Noe guilty just to "get it over with." The defendant's motion can be found here.

10th Circuit Hears Oral Argument About Juror Racial Comments

Interpreting a federal law that protects the sanctity of the jury deliberation process is at the heart of an appeal heard Wednesday by U.S. 10th Circuit Court judges...The three-judge panel from the Denver-based court peppered both presenting attorneys with questions on the decision by Utah's U.S. District Court to throw out the assault conviction of a Native American man after racially charged comments made during jury deliberations in his trial were brought to light. Utah's U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman appealed that decision.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

International Jury News

Jury Nullification in Canada
I've got a secret to tell you. It's about jurors. Jurors called for duty on criminal cases have a secret power. It's a secret because in a trial neither the judge nor the lawyers are allowed to tell the jurors this power exists. But it does. It's called "jury nullification."
It doesn't mean the jury gets nullified. It means the jury can nullify a law or nullify the application of a law to a specific case. Jurors can use this power if they believe a law is unjust or that the application of the law to the case would be unjust...

Juror Intimidation in the UK
More than 100 threats a week to witnesses and juries...

Major Jury Changes in Australia
RADICAL reforms to Queensland's legal system will enable criminal cases deemed too notorious or complex to be tried by a jury to be instead tried by a judge. The changes, to be introduced into State Parliament next week, will also avoid expensive retrials because of hung juries by allowing majority verdicts...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hot Tubbing

The NY Times has a very interesting article about expert testimony. While it is a little afar a field for this blog, I want to mention the piece because it touches upon juries and how experts are used in other Common Law countries. Basically, the article details the difficulties that arise in American courts when both jurors and judges receive conflicting expert testimony. According to the article, this battle of the experts is less of a problem in other Common Law countries because in many instances experts are selected by judges and are meant to be neutral and independent.

The article goes on state that those Common Law countries allowing opposing parties to select their own experts are likely to follow the Australian practice of "hot tubbing" or "concurrent evidence." In hot tubbing, experts are chosen by opposing parties but they testify together at trial. The experts have more of a dialogue--responding to questions from judges and lawyers and looking for a common ground. According to Justice Peter McClellan of the Land and Environmental Court of New South Wales, experts "are able to more effectively respond to the views of the other expert or experts" and "you can feel the release of the tension which normally infects the evidence gathering process."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Developments in the Wecht Case

Last Friday, a three judge panel finally issued its precedent setting opinion on the issue of juror anonymity in the mistrial of Dr. Cyril Wecht on charges of corruption. As previously discussed here, this opinion overturns the prior trial judge's sua sponte order to impanel an anonymous jury. The 118 page opinion, which follows up the panel's earlier January emergency order, is well worth the read for those interested in the issue of anonymous juries and the right of the public/media to information during trials. As most will recall, it was the local media that was leading the charge to have the trial judge's ruling overturned. For more information about the ruling see the following links:

Appeals court: Wecht jurors must be identified
Wecht jurors' names must be made public
Court rules names of jurors must be public
Media has right to know who sits in the jury box, appellate court ...

In other developments, attorneys for Dr. Wecht argued yesterday before the 3rd Circuit that any retrial would violate the provisions of the Double Jeopardy Clause. Dr. Wecht's first trial resulted in a mistrial when the judge determined that the jury was deadlocked. Generally speaking, placing a defendant twice in jeopardy for the same offense violates the 5th Amendment. However, like most other rules, the Double Jeopardy Clause has numerous exceptions. For example, if the judge declares a mistrial because of "manifest necessity" retrial of the defendant on the same charges does not violate the 5th Amendment. Here, the defense attorneys argued that "manifest necessity" was not present because the trial judge had other options to explore before declaring a mistrial, e.g., question jurors or consult with attorneys.

In the typical case, the lack of "manifest necessity" is a tough argument to make. Courts of appeal for the most part don't want to second guess trial judges on this issue. However, the Wecht case has been anything but typical. And, if Judge Franklin Van Antwerpen's comments ("This isn't the fault of the jury. This is the fault of the judge") during oral argument are any indication of how the panel will rule, the government might wish it had never decided to retry Dr. Wecht. For more information on this topic see the following links:

Judges hear Wecht oppose retrial
Panel criticizes Wecht judge
Appeals Court To Decide If Cyril Wecht Has Retrial
Wecht's lawyer asks appeals court to dismiss case -