What Would a Remote Jury Trial Look Like?
In a recent Law 360 posting, trial consultant Richard Gabriel provides thought-provoking suggestions for how jury selection, presentation of evidence, and final deliberations might occur with the aid of sophisticated video-conferencing tools. Are we ready for this? Should we be? NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies team is looking into this. Stay tuned.
Keeping Tabs on Statewide Jury Trial Suspensions
In addition to tracking state court policies that respond broadly to the COVID-19 epidemic, NCSC regularly publishes updates on jury trial suspension policies across the country.
In the Face of Court Shutdowns, Louisiana Prosecutor Offering Lenient Plea Deals to Clear Criminal Dockets
St. Landry Parish DA Charles Cravins sees the pandemic’s effects on courts as an opportunity to reduce the pendency of 5,500 criminal cases by strategic use of plea offers. Cravins recently stated, “It’s a situation where you take the lemon and make the lemonade, we’re looking at alternatives right now. Our staff is using the time that they would usually spend in court to start going through the files with the intention of resolving some of the cases we have pending.”
Prospective Juror’s Tendency to Believe Child Witness Should Have Led to a For Cause Strike
During voir dire in a sexual assault case involving a seven-year old victim, a prospective juror consistently responded to questioning by the court and lawyers saying she would tend to believe a child witness. At one point, the trial judge tried to rehabilitate her by saying she must receive all the evidence and the court’s instructions before reaching a decision and further stated, “I don’t want to put you in a box where you feel like you have to defend yourself.” The juror responded, “It would be hard. I’m sorry. It would be hard to—I can listen to all of it but I’m not sure if that by itself would cause me to convict.” A five-judge panel of the Montana Supreme Court unanimously found it was reversible error for the judge to deny defense counsel’s motion to strike the juror for cause. The court said the juror’s statements “evinced an inability to act with impartiality and without prejudice toward” the defendant.
Please Share Your Suggestions for Effectively Responding to the Pandemic
The Center for Jury Studies would appreciate your sending us any jury trial management innovations you have invoked recently in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Send your suggestions to Jur-E Bulletin editor Judge Gregory Mize (ret.)