Does Presence of a Witness’s Emotional Support Animal Prejudice a Jury?

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Does Presence of a Witness’s Emotional Support Animal Prejudice a Jury?

In Commonwealth v. Purnell, the trial court authorized a comfort dog to accompany an autistic minor during her testimony.  Michael Ridenour reports in Lexicology the trial judge concluded the presence of an emotional support animal was not inherently prejudicial; there was no actual prejudice to the defendant because the trial court implemented safeguards to ensure the jury did not know of the dog’s presence; and the prosecution did not have to prove the dog was necessary to secure the witness’s testimony, but only that its presence would help her testify truthfully and completely.

Washington State Trial Judge Gives Advice on Conducting Remote Jury Trials

The NYU Civil Jury Project’s latest newsletter features an article recapping the reflections of King County (Seattle) trial judge Matthew W. Williams on the several remote jury selections he has presided over since August.  The newsletter includes weblinks to (1) a pretrial order that helps attorneys/parties get ready for a fully virtual trial, (2) a juror questionnaire template for use when jury trials are conducted with voir dire carried out remotely and the trial itself carried out in person, (3) a model pre-empanelment instruction for when voir dire is conducted remotely, (4) PowerPoint slides that accompany opening instructions for trials that are conducted fully remotely, and (5) four YouTube training videos for lawyers on how to conduct a remote trial from pretrial to verdict.

Arizona Trial Judges Present Testimonials on Successful Conduct of Live Jury Trials

In this YouTube video, a dozen Maricopa County (Phoenix) trial judges share their positive experiences in conducting live jury trials.

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Here’s a Cool Thank You to Jurors in Remote Alaska

Dillingham Superior Court Judge Christina Reigh uses this catchy postcard to thank her former jurors for traveling to court to fulfill their jury duty.

New DA in Queens (New York) Acknowledges Past Prosecutorial Misconduct in Jury Selections

The New York Times reports:

The crimes were heinous, the punishments severe: A Latino man was sentenced to 40 years to life for murdering two people at a nightclub in 1993. A Black man was given 25 years to life for shooting a police officer two years later.

But in both men’s trials, officials now acknowledge, a prosecutor from the Queens County district attorney’s office illegally excluded women and people of color from the juries—the kind of misconduct that both defense lawyers and some of the office’s former prosecutors say was long overlooked.

The acknowledgment represented a marked shift: After documents revealed the discrimination last year, the first new district attorney in Queens in nearly 30 years, Melinda R. Katz, signed on to a motion to vacate the convictions and made plans to retry the cases. The move signaled a turning point within the office, long known among lawyers for its reluctance to admit mistakes and misbehavior.

Your Assistance, Please

As part of NCSC’s efforts to help courts conduct jury trials during the pandemic, the Center for Jury Studies would like Jur-E Bulletin readers to share any information you may have regarding:

  • Instructions to citizens on how to protect their privacy interests when participating in jury selection or serving on a trial jury; and
  • Descriptions of sites outside of courthouses where jury selections were conducted so as to assure safe social distancing between potential jurors.  In past issues of the Bulletin, we reported on how rodeo stadiums and hotel ballrooms are being used in some jurisdictions to conduct safe voir dires. We would like to have more examples.

Please send your responses to this request to Judge Gregory Mize (ret.) at  Thanks in advance.