Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Community Service or Jury Duty

This is the issue being appealed by the Missouri Public Defender's Office in State v. Ryan Ferguson. Apparently, the trial court in Ferguson, pursuant to local court rules, allowed 13 of the possible 848 potential jurors in the case to opt out of jury service by paying $50 and performing community service. The local public defender is challenging this policy arguing that it violates the defendant's 6th Amendment right to a jury made up of a cross-section of the public. Arguably, this policy does discriminate against those who can't afford the $50. However, it remains to be seen whether the court is willing to find this wide-spread local practice unconstitutional.

Ferguson lawyer cites jury selection problem
Ferguson's appeal questions Lincoln County jury selection procedures
Ferguson seeking new trial in Heitholt murder

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jury Related Stories from the Brian Nichols Murder Trial

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard wants the law changed to allow 10-2 verdicts in death penalty cases.

Legislature Urged to Revamp Death Penalty Law
District Attorney Paul Howard called for the state Legislature Saturday to change Georgia’s death-penalty law requiring a unanimous jury decision for a defendant to be sent to Death Row.
By a 9-3 hung jury decision on Friday, Howard lost a lengthy and costly effort to have Brian Nichols sentenced to death for the March 11, 2005 Fulton County Courthouse killings.
Howard said a minority of jurors were determined that Nichols get a life sentence, whether or not he deserved to be sentenced to death.

Jurors discuss the stress of being one of the few who don't vote with the majority.
Holdout Jurors Face Pressure
Elizabeth Strong knows what it’s like to be confined in a room and look across a table at angry faces. Strong was the lone holdout juror two years ago in a horrific and emotionally charged Fulton County case in which two teens were accused of duct-taping and broiling a puppy in an oven. Her stand caused angry shouting matches over three days of deliberations and caused a mistrial after which she was roundly criticized.

The 70-year-old grandmother was thinking of that ordeal last week as the jury in the death penalty trial of courthouse killer Brian Nichols remained deadlocked 9-3.
“I feel for those jurors (in the minority); I know they are catching it,” she said. “I’m glad I’m not on this one. Ours was hard enough. But this is human beings.”

Expert discussing jury dynamics during deliberations.
2 Jurors Likely Dominating Debate, Expert Says
Of the 12 jurors who are deadlocked on whether Brian Nichols should be put to death, as few as two probably are dominating the debate, an expert says. And time may be the crucial element in whether dissenting jurors hold out or ultimately join the majority in a verdict, said juror attitude researcher John W. Clark III. The Nichols jury Thursday said it was deadlocked 9-3 on Nichols’ punishment. The same jury earlier found him guilty of murdering four people, including a judge, in his escape from a rape trial at the Fulton County courthouse.

The guilty verdicts depended more on evaluating evidence, and the jurors now are into emotional territory, Clark said.“You’ve probably got two people who are fighting — one for the nine and one for the three,” said Clark, the criminal justice program coordinator for the Atlantic region of Troy University, based in Norfolk, Va.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Possible Jurors for Gov. Blagojevich Impeachment Trial

Senators Potential Jurors in Impeachment
Some state senators are minding their words about Gov. Rod Blagojevich these days, hoping to be seen as impartial should lawmakers decide to impeach the embattled chief executive.If the Illinois House votes to impeach Blagojevich in the wake of federal corruption charges, the Illinois Senate could conduct a trial, with the state's 59 state senators serving as a larger-than-usual jury. For that reason, some senators say voicing an opinion over whether Blagojevich would be impeached could taint their own jury pool

Friday, December 12, 2008

Use of Jury Duty Scam for Identity Theft Grows

Police: 25 Fall Victim to Jury Scam in Eagle County
A telephone solicitation "jury duty" scam has victimized at least 25 people in Eagle County this year, authorities said.
The victims surrendered their Social Security number to a caller who identified himself as a "jury coordinator," and the information was then used to steal their identity, according to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.
The same or similar scam has been reported in 11 states, including Illinois and Oklahoma.
As part of the scam, a caller tells people who have answered their phone they've missed a jury duty assignment. When the victim protests the accusation, the caller asks for a Social Security number and date of birth to verify identity and to cancel an arrest warrant.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

University Receives Grant to Study Jurors and Forensic Evidence

Federal Grant to Help Law, Psychology Professors Study Jurors' Responses to Forensic Science Evidence
Three professors at Arizona State University are among the first scholars in the country to receive funding from the National Institute of Justice to research the psychology of decision-making using forensic science expert evidence. A $496,450 grant was awarded to Dawn McQuiston-Surrett , an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences at ASU's West campus and to Jonathan "Jay" Koehler and Michael Saks , Professors at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, to study how jurors respond to fingerprints, bite marks, tool marks, handwriting, footwear impressions, tire tracks and other types of forensic identification evidence.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Recession Hits Jury Trials in New Hampshire

Jury Trials to Be Halted in One State Feeling Pinch
The Superior Court system in New Hampshire will take the unusual step of halting jury trials for a month early next year because of a widening state budget crisis.

John Broderick, the state’s chief justice, said suspending trials was essential to avoid layoffs in the judicial system, which has already cut $2.7 million from its budget.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Alleged Juror Misconduct in Political Corruption Cases

Both former Governor Don Siegelman (Alabama) and U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (Alaska) are alleging that their respective convictions for corruption related charges should be overturned for, among other things, issues related to their respective juries.

Attorneys for former Governor Siegelman, who will appear tomorrow before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, claim that the jurors in the governor's trial did not reflect the racial demographics of Montgomery, Alabama. In addition, they plan to argue that the trial was tainted by juror misconduct. Specifically, they claim that the District Judge failed to "adequately investigate emails that purportedly were written by jurors before and during deliberations and that were anonymously mailed to the attorneys." Defense attorneys will most likely argue that these "messages show premature deliberations, deliberations outside the presence of other jurors and the introduction of outside materials to deliberations that violated Siegelman and Scrushy's constitutional rights to a fair trial."
Former Governor Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy's Appeal Nears

In the case of Senator Stevens, his attorneys last week filed their motion for a new trial based on, among other things, deceptive acts by some of the jurors who participated in the senator's trial. It doesn't appear that the defense is staking its claim on the juror who lied about her father dying, so that she could attend a horse race. Rather, the defense is focused on two jurors who might have been less than candid on their juror questionnaires. As some may recall, this case had quite a few colorful jurors. There was the disruptive juror who was close to being removed and another who maintained a blog about his experiences in the trial.
Stevens Seeks Retrial In Alaska

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Jury Scholarship

1. Harges, Bobby Marzine. Peremptory challenges in jury selection in Louisiana--when a “gut feeling” is not enough. 54 Loy. L. Rev. 95-128 (2008).

2. Usman, Jeffrey Omar. Ancient and modern character evidence:
how character evidence was used in ancient Athenian trials, its
uses in the United States, and what this means for how these
democratic societies understand the role of jurors
. 33 Okla.
City U. L. Rev. 1-45 (2008).

3. Landsman, Stephan and Jing Zhang. A tale of two juries: lay
participation comes to Japanese and Chinese Courts
. 25 UCLA Pac.
Basin L.J. 179-227 (2008).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Russian Juries

In contrast to countries like South Korea and Japan, Russia appears to be moving in the opposite direction with respect to increasing the use of juries. Last week, the Russian Parliament (Duma) began initial steps to restrict the use of juries for certain crimes like terrorism, espionage and organizing mass demonstrations. Proponents of the changes argue that they are needed because in the past years juries often have acquitted many suspects despite strong evidence incriminating them. According to statistics from 2007, Russian juries acquitted 2 in every 10 defendants while judges acquitted approximately 1 in 100 defendants. Russia, however, unlike many common law countries permits retrial of acquitted defendants.

Duma Looks to Limit Trials by Jury
State Duma on Friday is to consider in a first reading a bill that would eliminate jury trials for cases involving terrorism, espionage and attempts to overthrow the government.Duma deputies with the pro-Kremlin party United Russia, which is sponsoring the bill, say the legislation is necessary because juries in volatile southern regions have been lenient toward defendants accused of involvement in armed groups and organized crime.

Russia: Jury Trials Under Attack

Russian Legislators to Ban Juries From Serious Cases

Friday, December 5, 2008

Update #3 on Undercover Mom

For prior posts on this topic go here and here.

Convict's Mom Goes Undercover, Gets Dirt on Juror
NEW YORK (AP) --Doreen Giuliano was obsessed with saving her son from a life behind bars after he was convicted of murder. She gave herself an extreme makeover — blonde dye job, fake tan, sexy wardrobe, phony name — and began spying on jurors. She befriended one juror to root out any possible misdeeds at the trial, and for nearly eight months, they drank at bars, smoked marijuana and shared meals in her tiny Brooklyn hideaway.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hedgpeth v. Pulido (Application of Harmless Error to Jury Instructions)

The SCOTUS Blog offers the following information on yesterday's SCT ruling on Jury Instructions.

Court Rules on Jury Instructions
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a conviction based on jury instructions containing more than one theory of guilt, with one of those theories invalid, is to be judged on whether that was harmless error. That is not to be treated as a “structural error” that undermines the verdict itself, the Court concluded in Hedgpeth v. Pulido (07-544). The Court was unanimous in that part of the ruling, but the decision to send the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court for harmless error analysis drew the dissents of three Justices.

See also the article in the ABA Journal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Update #2 on Undercover Mom

Juror Sting Could Overturn Murder Verdict
Trying to trap the juror, Doreen Giuliano used small talk as cover for elaborate verbal snares. When it seemed as if she might be revealing too much, she changed the subject. And when the conversation drifted away from what interested her most — her son’s case — she smoothly coaxed it back her way

"Now What Makes Juries Listen" (new book about jurors)

Sonya Hamlin has written a new book entitled "Now What Makes Juries Listen" published by West Legalworks. In the book's press release, Hamlin cites three major issues that "have changed everything radically" in the jury box:

Technology - "We don't talk to each other now, we type! We get our information about anything online, on our own, fast and easy," Hamlin says. "So, learning from someone talking at us has lost its power and credibility. And our attention span is now one and a-half minutes."

Generational differences - "We now have four generations sitting on the jury: seniors, baby boomers, generation X and generation Y. They're almost from different planets. Reaching each one requires new information in order to reach and persuade them."

Multicultural diversity - "We have people on juries who have become American citizens but are conditioned by other societies, other governments and other kinds of laws."

For more information about the book or to listen to a podcast go here.