Special Interest Group in New York State Urges Jury Nullification in Gun Prosecutions
Gun rights advocates under the banner 2AWNY held a press conference in Buffalo on January 9 to protest Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposals to ban the purchase of gun parts online and to prohibit out-of-state gun buyers with enumerated convictions from getting a New York gun license. The group called the proposals unconstitutional and vowed to lead a “Year of Defiance” against them. Steve Felano, a 2AWNY spokesman, said the defiance would include “aggressive lawsuits, jury nullification, expansion of local government autonomy, law enforcement discretion, and other noncompliance, nonenforcement and repeal tactics.”
Judge Overturns $15.4 Million Award to LA Times Sports Columnist
Superior Court Judge William A. MacLaughlin threw out the compensatory and punitive damages award in the disability discrimination case against the newspaper because plaintiff’s attorney presented evidence about the Times’ finances to the jury. MacLaughlin wrote, “The misconduct of counsel, which had no basis whatsoever in the evidence and violated the court’s instruction that the jury should not consider the defendant’s wealth, was so egregious, harmful and prejudicial that no instruction and admonition would have prevented the harm done and that nothing short of a new trial could or can alleviate that harm.”
Kansas High Court Untangles a Jury Nullification Issue
In State v. Patterson (a felony murder and robbery prosecution), the prosecutor told the jury during voir dire, “We don't have that luxury as a juror when it comes to jury instructions. And what that means is at the end of the trial you will get a packet of jury instructions and that is the law in the case. You don't get to go back and debate that.” At the close of all evidence, the trial judge instructed the jury, “The test you must use in determining whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty is this: If you have a reasonable doubt as to the truth of any of the claims required to be proved by the State, you must find the defendant not guilty. If you have no reasonable doubt as to the truth of each of the claims required to be proved by the State, you should find the defendant guilty.” On appeal, Mr. Patterson asserted that the actions of the prosecutor and the trial judge unlawfully prevented the jury from exercising its power of nullification. The supreme court affirmed the convictions.
Federal Appellate Judge Opines that a Juror Should Follow God’s Voice During Final Deliberations
During jury deliberations in a public corruption prosecution of a former Florida congressman, the jury reported to the trial judge that one juror announced that the Holy Spirit gave him guidance to find defendant not guilty on all charges. The judge interviewed the juror in the presence of the parties and learned the juror was firm in his belief that he received information from “My Father in Heaven” to acquit the defendant. The judge dismissed the juror and a reconstituted jury rendered guilty verdicts. The conviction was affirmed by a 2-1 margin by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In his dissent, Judge William Pryor praised the dismissed juror as the only one on the jury who obeyed the oath to render a true verdict “so help you God.” He also called his colleagues in the majority “members of the credentialed judicial elite,” who should have been more sympathetic to the 28 percent of Americans who contend to be recipients of divine instructions.
Supermodel Gigi Hadid Potential Juror in Harvey Weinstein Trial
This week, supermodel Gigi Hadid was among dozens of New York citizens answering questions to determine their fitness to be a juror in the sexual assault prosecution of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Several international news media report that when Judge James Burke inquired if anyone knew a legal team member either from the accusers' or defendant's side, the 24-year-old raised her hand and replied, "I have met the defendant." Speaking into a microphone, she added she could judge the case impartially. She put her hand up again when Judge Burke asked the jury pool whether anybody knew a person on the list of potential witnesses. She said, "I have met Salma Hayek and possibly Ryan Beatty…. I think I'm still able to keep an open mind on the facts."