Arkansas Legislature Passes Law to Prohibit Mask Mandates – Will This Affect Jury-Summoning Yields?

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Arkansas Legislature Passes Law to Prohibit Mask Mandates – Will This Affect Jury-Summoning Yields?

Last week, Senate Bill 590 was sent to the governor.  It would prohibit face-covering requirements in that state at the end of July.  If it becomes law, one can reasonably wonder how the new policy might affect citizen willingness to show up for jury service.

Washington State Working to Increase Jury Pool Diversity

Governing magazine reports about a Seattle University study that surveyed people who responded to jury duty across the state. The study found people of color were underrepresented in Washington jury pools.  Despite being cash strapped, some counties are rolling up their sleeves to address the problem.  Some legislators are contemplating an appropriation to the courts to collect demographic data on jurors.

Maryland High Court Clarifies Jury Nullification

In State v. Sayles, the Court of Appeals of Maryland en banc explicated its jurisprudence on jury nullification.   At trial, a deliberating jury sent notes to the judge asking whether it had the right to use jury nullification. The judge advised that the jury’s verdict must be based solely on the evidence, that the choices were only guilty or not guilty, and that the jury should reread the court’s instructions.   An intermediate appellate court found that instruction to be reversible error.  But the higher court opined, “Based on our existing case law, and in accord with Federal case law and the case law of the many States that do not condone the practice of jury nullification, we conclude that jury nullification is neither authorized nor sanctioned in Maryland.”   It went further to state, “[N]othing in Maryland law grants trial courts the authority to advise juries about jury nullification or otherwise provides for the giving of a jury nullification instruction or its equivalent.”

Florida Considers Bill to Authorize Automatic Deferral of Jury Duty for One Year If Juror Fears Pandemic Infection

House Bill 1197 unanimously moved through a House subcommittee.  It would authorize anyone who has been summoned for jury service to postpone the service for an additional time frame whenever a public health or a state emergency has been declared.

Jurors in Chauvin Trial Give Peeks into the Deliberation Room

Lisa Christensen was one of the alternate jurors in the homicide case against former police officer Derek Chauvin.  In a sensitive interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune that included a video clip, she described her shock at being summoned and having to answer a 16-page questionnaire.  She also shared some of the ground rules the jury created for itself (they would limit conversation to the weather, a shortage of Cheetos at their snack table, and their pizza orders every Wednesday); her feelings after being excused as an alternate ("sad and disappointed"); the overwhelming influence of the 17-year-old Darnella Frazier’s video recording of George Floyd’s arrest ("To this day it's still in my mind that [Frazier is] . . . apologizing to Mr. Floyd at night because she can't go to sleep.  It's pretty heartbreaking.  The 9-year-old, I could feel her sadness."); and her agreement with the final verdicts.

And Brandon Mitchell, one of the regular jurors, spoke to several news outlets about their verdict making.  The Washington Post collected multiple quotes from Mitchell’s interviews.  For example, the 31-year-old high-school basketball coach said, “It wasn’t pressure to come to a guilty verdict.  We stressed about the simple fact that every day we had to come in and watch a Black man die. That alone was stressful enough.  Anything outside of that was secondary.  As a human, it’s natural to feel some kind of way as you’re watching someone in agony.”