Sunday, November 30, 2008

Undercover Mom Continued

Not surprisingly, there have been additional news stories about the NY mom who went undercover to investigate a juror who sat on her son's murder trial. The NY Times article below provides the best legal analysis.

Mother’s Sting Faces Stiff Legal Obstacles
Doreen Giuliano concocted an elaborate undercover sting operation to free her son from prison, changing her appearance and her identity to pursue a flirtatious relationship with a man who was a juror in her son’s trial. But legal experts said on Saturday that she would have a difficult time persuading a judge to overturn her son’s conviction.

What mom did for love of her son The Star-Ledger -
Mother of convict John Giuca used sexy strategy to get info from juror New York Daily News
Mom's Makeover to Woo Juror, Prove Son's Innocence Gothamist

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Parent Goes Undercover in Search of Biased Juror

This is a fascinating made for movie tale about how far a parent will go to demonstrate that a juror in her son's murder trial was biased.

Disguised Mother Woos Juror in Bid to Free Son
At 46, Doreen Giuliano reinvented herself. She dyed her hair blond and tanned at a salon. She left her white seven-bedroom, colonial-style house for a spare basement apartment three miles away. She took on a new name, and for about a year, she said, she rode her bicycle around her new neighborhood, trying to attract the gaze of a young man whom she badly wanted to get close to.

This was no midlife crisis, though. It was a one-woman sting operation. Ms. Giuliano is the mother of John Giuca, a Brooklyn man who was convicted three years ago along with another man in the 2003 killing of Mark Fisher, a college student from New Jersey who was found beaten and shot five times after a night out in New York City. Ms. Giuliano claims her son is innocent and has mounted an unstinting campaign to free him from prison, where he is serving 25 years to life. She maintains a Web site to rally supporters of her son, and Mr. Giuca’s lawyers have filed an appeal alleging prosecutorial misconduct.

But in the last two years, Ms. Giuliano’s activism reached dramatic new heights. Having assumed the role of a 30-year-old research analyst from California who wore six-inch heels and push-up bras, she set out to meet a man named Jason Allo, a contractor who lived in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He was a juror in her son’s trial.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Revealing Juror Bias

Below is an interesting article discussing the split in the courts with respect to jurors revealing information learned during jury deliberations. Specifically, the courts are torn over whether a juror may testify about prejudicial racial statements made by other jurors during deliberations. The issue becomes even more involved when the racial views revealed by the jurors in question are in direct contrast to the statements they provided at voir dire. For more background information on this topic go here.

Circuit Split Deepens Over Jury Bias Issue
Deepening a split among the circuits, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated an assault conviction despite indications that jurors lied about racial bias in the case against an American Indian.

The 10th Circuit recently reinstated a jury verdict, upholding the sanctity of jury deliberation process even when a juror stepped forward to accuse others on the panel of racial bias against American Indians.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Comments During Voir Dire Cost Executive Job

Attention Prospective Jurors: Can You Set Aside Your Personal Biases and Judge the Accused Strictly on the Evidence Presented in Court — and Nothing Else?

The resignation of a top TV news executive in Fresno over the weekend following racially inflammatory comments he made during jury selection raises serious questions about the attitudes and beliefs of prospective jurors in our courts.

Bob Hall, president and general manager of KFSN Channel 30, the ABC affiliate in Fresno, resigned late last week after comments he made in Fresno County Superior Court prompted a judge to dismiss an entire jury pool out of concern that they may have been tainted by Hall’s statements, the Fresno Bee reported.

During jury selection, Hall told the court he couldn’t be fair as a juror in a Hispanic man’s trial because research done by the station showed Hispanic males have a propensity to commit violent crimes. He also said the district attorney would not spend money on prosecutions unless the defendant was guilty — a statement that appears to run counter to a central tenet of the criminal justice system, that the accused must be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Monday, November 24, 2008

National Jury Summit (April 1-3)

National Jury Summit to Address 'Protecting the Jury Trial - a Curriculum for Success'

Protecting the jury trial will be the focus of the third National Jury Summit hosted by the American Board of Trial Advocates. The Summit will be held at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, April 1-3, 2009.

This will be the third jury summit presented by ABOTA. The two previous summits were held in 2005 and 2007.

"Trial by jury is - unfortunately - a forgotten constitutional right that most Americans don't even realize is being taken away from them," said John L. Holcomb, president-elect of the American Board of Trial Advocates. "America's greatness lies in its people. Eliminating the jury system in favor of justice by a bureaucracy is an attack on the very reasons this country was founded."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jurors with Criminal Records

Stories of the Absurd: Jurors Lie About Criminal Past

A jury trial ended in a mistrial before it began Tuesday when a prosecutor discovered three jurors lied about their criminal records.

All three were chosen Monday, along with 11 others, for the trial of a Scranton man on drug and gun charges. As part of the selection process, potential jurors must fill out a questionnaire that asks, among other things, if they have ever been arrested and if they have ever been convicted of a crime.

All 14 jurors — 12 plus two alternates — answered they had not. But a background check, which is routinely conducted on jurors selected in a criminal case, revealed three had criminal records, Deputy District Attorney Margaret Bisignani said.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Update on HLF Jury and Discussion on Long Deliberations

HLF Jury Update: 7 Days and Counting

The Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing re-trial jury wrapped up its first full week at about 1 p.m. today without reaching a verdict. They didn't deliberate at all Tuesday, Nov. 18, because one juror was sick. So today marks seven days. They've got quite a ways to go before they get close to the 19 days last year's panel spent deliberating. Actually, that group spent more time bickering than really debating the evidence, or at least that's what it seemed from reading their notes.

There were no notes from the re-trial jury all week, according to court staff. We still don't know what kinds of questions they asked in last week's five notes (they're sealed until after the verdict), but I get a sense that there is much less turmoil. "Quiet" is the prevailing description I'm hearing. But one never really knows until it's all over and jurors speak out.

So do long deliberations favor the government or the defense

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Jury Scholarship

Case Western Law Review
Whittlesey, John W. Note. Private judges, public juries: the
Ohio Legislature should rewrite R.C. § 2701.10 to explicitly
authorize private judges to conduct jury trials. 58 Case W. Res.
L. Rev. 543-573 (2008).

Duquesne Law Review
Nicoletti, Amy. Recent decision. Pennsylvania’s common law
and the United States Constitution provide members of the
press with a right of access to names but not addresses of jurors
impaneled in a criminal trial. (Commonwealth v. Long, 922
A.2d 892, 2007.) 46 Duq. L. Rev. 641-655 (2008).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Are Female Jurors Tougher in Sexual Assault Cases?

British actress Helen Mirren has created quite stir over the weekend with her comments about female jurors serving on rape cases. According to media reports, Ms. Mirren is reported to have said that courts select as many women as they can for the jury in rape cases because 'women go against women' and usually assume that the victim of the alleged rape was 'asking for it.'

Helen Mirren Has Got It Wrong About Rape
Helen Mirren’s staus as a national treasure seems to be going to her head. She may look better in a bikini than any other known 63-year-old, she certainly played The Queen at least as convincingly as Elizabeth II, but she isn’t a spot-on authority on everything - certainly not on how juries operate...

Readers might also be interested in checking out Anne Reed's blog post When Women Judge Women

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jurors Testifying About Deliberations (US v. Benally)

US v. Benally

Last year, Kerry Dean Benally was convicted of forcibly assaulting a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer with a dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111(b). After the trial, one of the jurors came forward with a charge that the jury deliberations had been tainted by racial bias and other inappropriate considerations. In response to this misconduct, the trial judge granted defendant a new trial. The trial court held that Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) which generally prohibits jurors from testifying about jury deliberations did not apply in this case. This decision, however, was recently reversed by the 10th Circuit in U.S. v. Benally.

The 10th Circuit held that Rule 606(b)’s general prohibition against jurors testifying about jury deliberations covers the juror's testimony of racial bias and the Sixth Amendment does not require an exception. The defendant's motion for a new trial was overturned and the conviction reinstated where: 1) the district court erred in admitting both a juror's testimony about racial bias and juror testimony about sending a message under Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b); and 2) this was the only evidence that defendant presented to challenge the verdict.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Defendant Ordered to Pay Jurors' Expenses

Here is one way to cut down on court costs.

Vrdolyak Ordered To Pay Jurors' Expenses
Former Chicago Ald. Edward Vrdolyak is going to literally pay for his last-minute decision to plead guilty last week. In an unusual move in a criminal case, U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur entered an order late Monday requiring that Vrdolyak pick up the tab for dozens of prospective jurors who showed up at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. But instead of picking a jury on Nov. 3 and proceeding to trial, Vrdolyak pleaded guilty to his role in a fraudulent real estate deal.The judge gave Vrdolyak until Nov. 21 to pay $5,923.59 to cover the cost of paying the prospective jurors' appearance and mileage expenses, court records said.

Friday, November 7, 2008

More News On MI Jury Reforms

As previously discussed, the state of Michigan is conducting a pilot project to study jury reform proposals. These proposals (listed below) are being tested in several state district courts until 2010 when a decision will be made as to whether they should be implemented permanently and state wide.

(1) Giving jurors binders with the legal instructions that the judge typically only gives orally.

(2) Providing jurors with copies of documents that were entered into evidence.

(3) Allowing experts testifying for the defense or prosecution in either civil or criminal cases to be called back-to-back so that jurors can hear all of the technical testimony at once or having the experts basically debate each other or answer questions from the judge.

(4) Allowing jurors to take notes and ask questions.

(5) Permitting the jurors to discuss the case with each other prior to deliberations.

(6) Permitting the judge to summarize the case for the jury.

According to the article below, the last proposal has proven to be the most controversial to date.

Local Courts Try Out Jury Reforms
Jury duty in Michigan soon may become less of a duty.
An initiative launched by the Michigan Supreme Court aims to help jurors along the sometimes confusing path to a verdict. But some of the proposed reforms -- which include allowing judges to summarize evidence -- are causing concern even among judges themselves.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How Jurors Process Information

Here are two interesting articles that discuss how jurors process information. The first, an English article, looks at whether the current generation which is so reliant on the internet and technology has trouble listening. The second article looks at the potential problems that can arise when lawyers give jurors too much information or information that is overly complex.

Web-Savvy Young Make Bad Jurors Because They Cannot Listen
In a speech, Lord Judge of Draycote, the Lord Chief Justice, said it might be better to present information for young jurors on screens because that is how they were used to digesting information.

He said: "Most are technologically proficient. Many get much information from the internet. They consult and refer to it. They are not listening. They are reading. "One potential problem is whether, learning as they do in this way, they will be accustomed, as we were, to listening for prolonged periods.

"Even if they have the ability to endure hours and days of sitting listening, how long would it be before some ask for the information on which they have to make their decision to be provided in forms which adapt to modern technology?

Lawyers Will Be Lawyers, Dumping More on Juries Than They Can Process
When the high-profile prosecution of a Texas charity accused of helping Palestinian terrorists collapsed in a chaotic mistrial here a year ago, there were lots of theories about what went wrong, from government overreaching to a new political climate to a rogue juror.
But there was another problem, according to lawyers who followed the trial: Some jurors were bored and bewildered. They were buried under 197 counts and an avalanche of evidence, including hundreds of documents and dozens of wiretap tapes...

Jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn offers this trifecta: "A, you have to make it interesting. B, you have to use simple words. C, you need to come up with analogies or examples."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Horse Race or Jury Duty

Stevens Juror Lied About Father's Death
The juror who was dismissed from the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens to attend her father’s funeral in California has admitted that her father had not died and that she went to California to attend a horse race.The juror, Marian Hinnant, admitted to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in a Monday morning hearing that her father hadn't died and she was in fact at the Breeders' Cup in Arcadia, Calif.

See also the Blog of LegalTimes:Juror in Stevens Case: My Father is not Dead

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Do Jurors Understand Beyond Reasonable Doubt?

According to the article below, Australian jurors struggle to come up with a meaningful definition of "Beyond Reasonable Doubt."

Opinion Divided on Reasonable Doubt
A survey of more than 1000 jurors has prompted a controversial suggestion — juries might need to be told the meaning of "beyond reasonable doubt". The three words represent the highest standard of proof under the legal system.