Bias in the Box. "This is where Bryan Stevenson’s 'undeveloped understanding' comes into focus. A prosecutor may say with the utmost sincerity that he doesn’t exclude blacks [from a jury] because of their race, but because they or someone in their family has been a victim of discrimination, which leads them to distrust the system. Because of their experiences, they are believed to be less motivated to sentence someone to die and are therefore less desirable on a jury." (slVQR) [more inside]
If you've recently been called for jury duty, you may have been asked some rather personal questions. "In a recently concluded federal racketeering trial in Brooklyn, potential jurors were asked what public figures they admired the most and the least. For a political corruption trial, they were asked to list their three favorite movies and what the bumper stickers on their cars said." The New York Times, with the help of a jury consultant, created this quiz to see if you would potentially be seated on a jury.
Twelve Absent Men: Rebuilding the American Jury. "Juries hear only 4 percent of criminal trials in America. Their decline has fostered radical punitiveness, but reforms and novel institutions are breathing new life into the jury and civic participation more broadly."
The crime against women that no one understands "They would be 10 educated, professional women versus a demonstrated liar—a man who had pretended to be a doctor, a CIA employee, even an astronaut—whom a court-appointed psychologist would decide met the legal definition of a "sexually violent predator." And yet the most remarkable thing about both trials wasn't the way they exposed the alleged tactics of a serial date rapist. It was that despite the outrageousness of the accusations against Marsalis, the testimony of 10 women wasn't enough to get a single rape conviction against him. The verdicts in these cases would be far lighter than his accusers sought—and victims' advocates say the outcome reveals a disturbing truth about the justice system. Nationwide, despite all the legal advances of the past three decades, little has changed for women who report a date rape. Because in far too many instances, juries don't believe date rape exists."
The perfect location for the perfect crime. Due to a loophole in the US Constitution there is an area of Yellowstone Park where you may be able to get away with a major crime. U Michigan Prof Brian C Kalt looks into this loophole and gauges your chance at success. Someone has tried. [more inside]
Scott Horton at Harpers.org writes about Julian P. Heicklen, a 78-year-old retired chemistry professor from New Jersey, now faces federal criminal charges for informing people entering the federal courthouse about the doctrine of jury nullification. Scott Horton's post is a response to the New York Times column on Mr. Heicklen. [more inside]
Missoula District Court: Jury pool in marijuana case stages ‘mutiny’. 'A funny thing happened on the way to a trial in Missoula County District Court last week. Jurors – well, potential jurors – staged a revolt. They took the law into their own hands, as it were, and made it clear they weren’t about to convict anybody for having a couple of buds of marijuana. Never mind that the defendant in question also faced a felony charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs. The tiny amount of marijuana police found while searching Touray Cornell’s home on April 23 became a huge issue for some members of the jury panel. No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.'
I’ve spent the better part of the week serving as the foreman for a jury in a criminal case. As they tell you, you’re not allowed to talk about it with anyone, not even your fellow jurors, during the trial. As they also tell you, once the trial is over you can talk about anything you want. So, here goes.
"I just finished serving jury duty at the Van Nuys Superior Court. My case involved a man who was suing a stripper and strip club for a “fractured penis” injury he received while getting a nude lap dance. The stripper was from Sweden. The strip club owner was a retired porn star. There were many experts. Needless to say, this case was kind of awesome. As a member of the jury, I was given a pad and pen for note taking. The case lasted 7 days."
Jury nullification, a situation in which jurors acquit in a criminal trial even if the facts favor conviction (often because the jurors disagree with the law), is of ancient provenance in the Anglo-American legal tradition. Courts are ambivalent towards it, regarding it both as quasi-illegal (they'll remove jurors if they catch them during the attempt) and as something that they cannot overturn once it happens. Nullification has furthered many causes, from anti-death-penalty to pro-southern-lynchings. Lawyers can't mention it in court on pain of contempt, but some hope to educate people in other ways.
The first criminal trial without a jury to take place in England and Wales in more than 400 years begins tomorrow. [more inside]
With that meeting, Mr. Allo took his first step into an intricate trap. The deeply strange tale of one very determined woman's quest to overturn her son's conviction for murder.
The American Gallery of Juror Art. Deliberations, a blog on juries and jury trials, solicits art made by folks while on jury duty. Some dude drew a sweet bike. Another had detailed notes on his fellow jurors, divided into "knuckleheads," "reasonable people," and "who knows." (Original here.) It's a small collection at the moment, but hopefully more to come.
John Hodgman [fantastic youtubed interview], author, expert, oathster and yes, electronics impersonator, blogs jury duty. Amusement ensues.
No mere slap on the wrist for Merck. Jury awards grieving widow $253.4 Mil in Vioxx suit. The first of thousands of cases like it. (washpost)
Laywer/novelist Scott Turow (non-wp, non-reg-req. link) and Nat Hentoff discuss the DOJ's decision to release a declassified document detailing the possible charges against Jose Padilla, at the same time as the U.S. Supreme Court nears a decision on the constitutionality of holding Padilla without due process ... "So at this point, you have no plans to present any of this to a grand jury?"
Steve Davis, this was your life. The most interesting spam I've gotten in a while. This fellow apparently served on a jury with the woman of his dreams. Having not gotten her number, or apparently her name, he decided that spamming was the way to find her. In this world, at this time, one would think he would know better. I smell a new meme arising! (Text of the email inside.)
Chief Moose won't postpone book. Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose will not delay the release of his book despite concerns of tainting jury pools and the fact that county rules bar disclosure of confidential info and prohibit employees from using the "prestige of office" for private gain. Chief Moose said his book will not disclose information that would hurt the prosecution of Malvo and Muhammad.
We all must do our civic duty. But how many of us can fill in President of the United States on the questionnaire when it asks for former jobs held? A bit of mirth for today. NY Times req. required.
"Jury of your peers," perhaps... but a celebrity juror on a celebrity case can certainly open a can of worms. Especially when they've worked together in the past. (more inside)
SD proposing expanding jury powers to nullify unfair laws. South Dakota's proposed Amendment A would give juries the ability to accept a guilty verdit but let the offender go if it is shown that the law is either draconian or misguided - as is usually the case with victimless crimes like drug posession and 'in the bedroom' sex laws. Jury nullification: a necessary check on our over-legislated society or a potential breakdown of the modern justice system?
Terrorists should be tried in front of military tribunals instead in civilian courts in front of juries.
U.S. Embassy bomber given life sentence. This is kind of the flipside of the McVeigh execution; Saudi man helps bomb the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi which kills 213 people. Jury cannot agree to execute him, as some believe he would become a martyr for the cause, and others believe this wouldn't "alleviate the suffering of the victims or family members". Why is this any different from the McVeigh situation?