Dec 3

final-jur-e headline

Do Face Mask Requirements for Jurors Violate a Defendant’s Constitutional Rights?

In United State v. Charles Ray Smith, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit says “no.”  After a jury convicted Mr. Smith of bank fraud, he argued on appeal that the district court's face mask requirement violated his right to a fair trial because it prevented him from seeing jurors’ full facial expressions during opening statements, closing arguments, and witness testimony.  In rejecting Smith’s claim, the appellate panel opined, “We start with the axiomatic principle that a defendant is entitled to 'a fair trial, not a perfect one, because an error-free, perfect trial is not humanly possible' (citations omitted). This principle applies with even greater force during a public health emergency, where protective measures such as plexiglass partitioners, disposable microphones, face masks, and social distancing upend traditional notions of what a ‘normal’ trial looks like. However, different does not necessarily mean unfair.”

Another High-Profile Police-Shooting Case Begins in Minneapolis Suburb

Jury selection is underway this week in the manslaughter trial against former police office Kim Potter.  The defendant is accused of wrongfully gunning down Daunte Wright, a Black motorist who was driving away from a traffic stop.  Potter alleges she mistakenly thought the gun she held for five seconds before shooting was a Taser weapon.  The UK’s Independent reports that the 200+ summoned jurors were given pretrial questionnaires that resemble many of the questions posed to the jurors who were called to serve on the murder trial of police office Derek Chauvin. For example, potential jurors were asked whether they or anyone close to them participated "in any of the demonstrations or marches related to policing that took place in the Twin Cities area in the last two years." If they participated, they were asked whether they carried a sign and what it said. They were asked if they or anyone they know were injured or suffered property damage in any of those protests.

Why Did Jury Selection Take Three-and-a-Half Weeks in Ahmaud Arbery Case?

The New York Times reporter Giulia Heyward examined why it took so long.  In her view it largely boiled down to Glynn County in southern Georgia is a small close-knit community where jurors know a lot about the defendants and witnesses.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Trial Draws Pre-Dawn Crowds, Professional Line Sitters, and Family Supporters

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reporters are on the sidewalks outside and in the benches inside Manhattan’s Thurgood Marshall Courthouse where Jeffrey Epstein’s confidante is on trial for sex trafficking.  ABC’s post earlier this week reads like a personality page.

Canadian Senate Bill Would Allow Former Jurors to Share Their Trauma with Medical Professionals

As the Jur-E Bulletin has reported previously, Canada has been a leader in drawing attention to the phenomenon of former jurors experiencing trauma from their completed jury service.*  Thanks to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), we come to learn Senate Bill S-206 has been introduced to create an exception to a general rule that jurors cannot talk about their deliberations during a trial.  The CBC says S-206 is modeled after legislation in the Australian state of Victoria.  It would carve out a narrow exception to a jury secrecy rule so that a former juror suffering from mental health issues after their jury service can freely discuss the case with a mental health professional under the bounds of a patient-client relationship.  In addition to removing barriers for jurors seeking help, the bill will remove any ambiguity around a therapist's ability to provide support to a juror.  CBC’s Toronto reporting unit predicts the chances of passage by June 2022 are good.

*In 2019 the Juries Ontario Health Insurance Plan Team, staffed by the Ontario Ministry of Justice, was the Munsterman Award recipient.