The Washington Post published an article on February 20, 2018 titled, A juror voted to put a murderer to death. Decades later, he wants to halt his execution. Ross Geiger was Juror No. 2 in the trial of Raymond Tibbetts. Mr. Tibbetts was convicted of murder in 1997, and the jury recommended a death sentence. Mr. Geiger recently began reviewing the case and read a clemency report that was submitted to the parole board. He realized that the report included information about Mr. Tibbits' troubled past that was not included in the sentencing phase of the trial. More importantly, he believes that had the information been included, he would not have voted for a death sentence. Troubled by this information, he sent a letter to Governor John Kasich asking him to commute the sentence. Gov. Kasich continued the execution until the fall of 2018 to give the parole board time to reconsider the case.
Lack of Diversity in King County, WA Jury Pools
King County Superior Court Judge Cathy Moore and Deputy Director Anita Khandelwal of the King County Department of Public Defense wrote a guest editorial for the February 19, 2018 edition of The Stranger. The editorial is titled Seattle’s Lack of Jury Diversity Is an Urgent Problem. We Must Do Something About It Now. It is an uncompromising look at the diversity issue with suggestions to mitigate the problem. At least one of the suggestions is controversial. This is an interesting editorial that is worth reading.
Aspect of Voir Dire Closed to Public
The Daily Sentinel reported on February 21, 2018, that Jefferson County (CO) District Judge Tamara Russell will close voir dire to the public for one aspect of the questioning in the Michael Blagg murder trial. Juror who requested to be excused for hardship or cause will have their matters heard without the public being able to participate. There were 1,000 summonses issued for this case so it is a high-profile case. Katie Townsend, the litigation director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press said:
"Courts have held that where voir dire involves questioning a potential juror about deeply personal matters, for example, there may be a compelling reason that justifies closure of a portion of the voir dire proceeding to the public. But a court is required to make findings justifying any closure of voir dire, and it is critically important that courts follow the right procedures to make sure that the public's rights to attend those proceedings are being safeguarded.”
This is Mr. Blagg’s second trial. The original conviction was reversed due to juror misconduct. It is difficult to know from the limited information provided by the newspaper what the trial judges reasoning was for closing voir dire.
Trusting Technology Too Much
Catherine Little is a Toronto, Canada professor, consultant and writer, who wrote an opinion piece for the February 22, 2018 edition of the Toronto Star. She has been summoned for jury service three times over the past few decades. In an opinion piece titled, Painful jury selection process erodes faith in ability to reform, she describes her experiences with the jury system. In each occasion that she was summoned, she had a reasonable request for a deferral or excusal. In her past experiences, she was able to promptly get a response from the court. In her most recent experience, she found that communicating with the court in the “internet age” is far more complex than it used to be. This is a short but enlightening piece.
You the Juror 2018
A video titled You the Juror: An Overview of the Jefferson Judicial System was recently uploaded to Youtube. It features an introduction by Chief Judge Glenn B. Ansardi and Jon A. Gegenheimer, Clerk of Court, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. It is a well-done production and as it was created for a specific jurisdiction, it includes more localized information than most juror orientation videos. For example, it includes information on where to park and how-to validate parking tickets so parking is free. It also notes that employers are required to pay salaries for the first day jurors serve.
The New York posted reported on February 20, 2018 that an 11 year old boy was summoned to jury service in Chester County, PA. When the problem was brought to the attention of the court, it was corrected. The 11 year old, who is a Boy Scout, had previously toured the courthouse. His mother said that he was excited by the prospect of serving.
February 23, 2018
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