Juror Fined $11,227 for Causing a Mistrial
A federal judge in Camden, New Jersey found Stephen Meile in contempt of court for willfully breaching the court’s repeated instructions telling jurors not to do outside research during the trial. The Courier Post reports that Meile shared the results of his visits to the crime scene and the content of his online searches with his fellow jurors during the trial. The fine represented the cost of impaneling the jury.
In Praise of Virtual Jury Trials
Cornell University Law Professor Valerie P. Hans recently published a research paper reviewing the experiences of “pioneering” judges, lawyers, court administrators, and trial consultants who have developed procedures and recorded lessons learned from virtual civil jury trials they have undertaken. She also makes findings from her own ongoing research. She examines the issues of jury representativeness, the adequacy of virtual jury selection, the quality of decision making, and the public’s access to jury trial proceedings. Although many have expressed concern that the digital divide would negatively affect jury representativeness, surprisingly, there is some preliminary evidence that suggests that virtual jury selection procedures lead to jury venires that are as diverse, if not more diverse, than pre-pandemic jury venires. Lawyers in one demonstration project reacted favorably to virtual voir dire when it was accompanied by expansive pretrial juror questionnaires and the opportunity to question prospective jurors. How a virtual jury trial affects jurors’ interpretations of witness testimony, attorney arguments, and jury deliberation remain open questions. Hans reports that 80 percent of the venire members in Florida’s pilot projects preferred remote jury selection. There is also a feeling from judges and attorneys that potential jurors are more forthright and candid when responding from home.
Georgia Grand Jury Declines to Indict State Trooper in Shooting Black Motorist
The Statesboro Herald describes the following: The Ogeechee Judicial Circuit DA’s office presented evidence to a Screven County grand jury showing Julian Lewis, a 60-year-old Black man, refused to stop when former Georgia State Trooper Jacob Gordon Thompson, who is white and in his late 20s, tried to pull him over for a nonworking taillight. After a brief pursuit, Thompson used his patrol car in a “precision immobilization technique” (aka a PIT maneuver) to force Lewis’s car off the road. Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Dustin Peak testified during a bond hearing in August that Lewis’s car was disabled by the crash that followed and that Thompson fired his gun at Lewis one second after exiting his patrol car, striking Lewis, who was seated in his car with both hands on the wheel, in the forehead.
Bronx Indictment Tossed Because Grand Jury Not Representative of Latino Population
The Daily Mail in London describes how federal judge Analisa Torres, in a 36-page opinion, recently nullified an indictment against convicted felon William “Ill Will” Scott due to a lack of racial diversity in the grand jury pool in White Plains, New York where the jury trial was removed from Manhattan due to the pandemic. The court noted the jury-eligible population in White Plains is 12.45 percent black and 14.12 percent Latino, compared with 21 and 28 percent, respectively, in Manhattan. In her ruling, Judge Torres stated, “Defendant has produced clear statistical evidence of underrepresentation of Black and Latinx individuals in the pool from which his grand jury was drawn, and a jury selection process that was susceptible to abuse.”
Leaders of Canadian Juries Commission Call for Public Investment in Juror Health
The Canadian Juries Commission is a national not-for-profit organization representing and supporting Canadians serving on criminal and civil juries and coroner’s inquests—born out of a House of Commons 2018 report. The commission was founded by former jurors, mental health practitioners, advocates, and legal professionals dedicated to improving support for former jurors and improving jury duty for all Canadians. Now Tina Daenzer and Mark Farrant, the commission’s COO and Founder respectively, have written a piece in the latest issue of Jury Matters, the newsletter for the Civil Jury Project at NYU Law School, describing the stresses that can befall jurors whenever they encounter gruesome trial evidence or show up for jury duty during a pandemic. In their article “Jury Duty Is Not a Duty to Suffer,” they make concrete suggestions to the Canadian government for investing in juror mental health. They assert it is a moral obligation of government that will result in improved public confidence and participation rates.