North Carolina Enforcement of Batson Under Scrutiny?
After the state supreme court issued a pair of Batson-challenge cases, court watchers there would not be surprised if the Tar Heel State joined Washington State, California, and Connecticut in setting up a commission to examine whether racial discrimination in jury selection is prevalent and, if so, how to address it effectively.
Jurisdictions Across America Grapple with Various Pandemic-Era Logistics for Jury Trials
Jury managers in Kootenai Valley, Montana will conduct voir dires in a middle school gymnasium. Snyder and Union Counties in Pennsylvania will be using high school auditoriums. And in San Diego County, officials are discussing renting out movie theatres. Further north in Contra Costa County, California, courts are installing plexiglass around witness stands. More will be placed in front of the jury panel, and the jury itself will be spread through the courtroom gallery. In response, defense attorney Joseph Tully remarks, “The question will be, ‘Is it good enough for our constitution?' Do we have the resources to actually make things constitutionally adequate for accused people facing charges? How do you choose a jury of your peers while they’re wearing masks, where half of their face is covered up and you can’t tell their human emotions?” Several counties in Ohio are making one-way stairways for courts to minimize court-user interchanges. In Kentucky courthouses that are too small for spreading out jury selection proceedings, voir dire will occur in stages with segmented venires beginning in June. In Connecticut, the Chief Court Administrator, Judge Patrick L. Carroll III, has been speaking with the state's top prosecutor and public defender, following reports of the virus, and consulting with other court administrators throughout the country.
What Are Lawyers and Citizens Saying About the Re-Start of Jury Trials?
Bloomberg news reports that federal courts are thinking about a bunch of methods to resume jury trials—leading to some skepticism by lawyers and hesitancy by potential jurors. For example, some trial bar veterans express wonder about how representative jury panels will be if trials resume soon. Some hope pretrial questionnaires are used more often. And as for citizen sentiment, we learn that only half of the roughly 600 potential jurors surveyed in a recent Miami-Dade County-Eleventh Circuit poll said they would report for duty in July, citing safety concerns, but more said they’d be willing to appear this fall. In the words of Lara Bazelon, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, “You’re essentially asking them to be guinea pigs.” Renee Rothauge, a member of an American Board of Trial Advocates task force studying the prospect of jury trial resumption notes, “This is what I would call a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reassess and reinvent.”
Jailed Defendant Has Waited 1,300+ Days for a Jury Trial. Will Pandemic Extend That Beyond the Scheduled Trial Date?
The Christian County (Missouri) Headliner News reports that Carl C. Ferguson, 40, is charged with 27 counts for alleged crimes occurring from June 2015 to Aug. 10, 2016. He has been in the Christian County Jail in Ozark since Aug. 11, 2016. His jury trial is now scheduled for July 13. But county officials are not yet certain how to maintain social distancing and other public health safeguards during the trial.
NCSC Webinar on Jury Trial Management During Pandemic Yields Interesting Poll Results on What States Are Doing
As noted in last week’s Jur-E Bulletin, NCSC hosted a panel discussion focusing on the development and implementation of new policies to manage jurors and jury trials, lessons learned from pilot tests of remote jury trials and grand jury proceedings, and innovative ways to ensure social distancing and other public health and safety measures with prospective jurors. During the webinar, several polls were taken from the 1,190+ attendees. The poll results contain some jaw droppers such as not all courts will frequently clean public areas or require jurors to wear face masks.