Do Courtroom Curtains Prejudice a Jury? Federal 2nd Circuit Gives Interior Decorating Advice
The defendants in U.S. v. Eldridge appealed their armed robbery convictions by raising several issues with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Before the trial began, the U.S. Marshals Service advised the trial court the defendants were security risks and needed to be shackled during the trial. The defendants claimed the trial judge committed reversible error by ordering placement of a waist-high black curtain running from the center of the courtroom to near the gallery and then around the defense table. Although the judge thought it was wise to cover the shackles with the curtain, the defendants pointed to the fact that the curtains did not wrap around the prosecution table. They asserted the curtains implied to the jury that the accused were guilty and subtly encouraged the jury to align themselves with the prosecution. Lexology reports the appellate panel rejected the appeal and offered a suggestion for the future—wrap the curtain around both tables.
Louisiana Officials Trying to Work Around SCOTUS Refusal to Retroactively Void Split Jury Verdicts
Big Easy magazine in New Orleans reports on how a Louisiana trial judge, a prosecutor, and a legislator are addressing whether the 2020 U.S. Supreme decision in Ramos v. Louisiana outlawing non-unanimous jury verdicts should be applied retroactively despite the High Court’s recent contrary decision in Edwards v. Vannoy. Last month 14th Judicial District Judge Kendrick Guidry in Lake Charles ruled the Ramos doctrine applied retroactively in the case of David Nelson who had previously exhausted his appeals. Thereafter New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams expressed an intent to seek retroactive application in his parish. Contemporaneously, State Rep. Randall Gaines sponsored (but later withdrew) House Bill 346, which would provide new trials to all those convicted by split juries.
July Is Jury Appreciation Month in North Carolina
After North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby declared July as "Jury Appreciation Month," the district attorney for Alexander and Iredell counties wrote this op-ed piece in the Statesville Record and Landmark.
Prosecutors Properly Played Child Pornography Videos in Bay Area Cop’s Jury Trial
The Mercury News reports former California Highway Patrol officer Eric C. Lund, convicted of aggravated possession of child pornography, lost his appeal claiming the trial judge wrongfully allowed the prosecution to show the jury portions of 15 child pornography videos found in Lund’s possession. Lund was tried twice and convicted in October 2018 after an earlier jury hung 11-1 toward guilt. In both trials, the prosecution was allowed to play roughly 10 minutes of videos found on Lund’s computer. California’s First Appellate District, in a 55-page decision, rejected Lund’s argument that playing the videos was gratuitous, because Lund was not contesting that the videos contained child porn, only that he knowingly possessed them. The court cited a prior California appellate decision that found “the prosecution was not required to accept defense concessions as a sanitized alternative to the full presentation of its case,” as well as prior instances where jurors were allowed to see similar content.
“Reimagining Jury Trials in a Pandemic"
That is the title of a lively roundtable at the 2021 annual meeting of the Law and Society Association. Michael Pressman, research fellow at the NYU Law School’s Civil Jury Project, writes a comprehensive summary of the contributions made by roundtable participants from around the world. Contributors discussed a range of issues arising from the global use of virtual trials. These include case backlogs, representativeness of juries, and the prospect of voir dire being conducted remotely in the long term.