Oct 8

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Free October Webinar Series Aims to Respond to Why Diverse Juries Matter

Figuring out how to ensure jury diversity has plagued jurisdictions across the country for decades. Barriers to jury diversity can range from systemic and institutional obstacles to the discriminatory use of peremptory strikes. This month the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is hosting a three-part webinar series, “From the Community to the Courtroom: Increasing Diversity and Access to the Jury Box” engaging leading jury experts, scholars, and practitioners on why diverse juries matter, the challenges to achieving jury diversity, and what solutions and reforms are on the horizon.  The series will be moderated by CUNY Law Professor Nina Chernoff, a scholar and expert on issues relating to the Sixth Amendment right to a representative jury.

  • Tues. October 19, 1 – 2 pm EST / 10 – 11 am PT
    Why Diverse Juries Matter in Theory and in Practice
    • Panelists: Paula Hannaford and Valerie Hans
  • Wed. October 20, 1 – 2:30 pm EST / 10 – 11:30 am PT
    Ways to Increase Inclusiveness and Access to the Jury Box
    • Panelists: Jamie Binnall, Jasmine Gonzalez-Rose, Catherine Grosso, and Barbara O’Brien
  • Thurs. October 21, 2:30 – 4 pm EST / 11:30 am – 1 pm PT
    Batson and Beyond: Batson, its Shortcomings, Solutions and Reforms
    • Panelists: Steven Bright, Brendon Woods, and Sonia Rankin

“Varsity Blues” Jury

Law 360 ($) reports two parents on trial in the "Varsity Blues" case can't play recordings for jurors in which the scheme's mastermind makes his college admissions "side­ door" sound like a legitimate operation.  Lawyers for former Wynn Resorts Ltd. executive Gamal Abdelaziz and hedge fund founder John Wilson had hoped to play several recordings and introduce emails to show that William "Rick" Singer never presented his plot to pass off their children as fake athletes as illicit.  In one video, Singer is recorded talking to a group of Starbucks employees about his "side door" method of getting kids into college.  One defense lawyer asserted, "He talks about the side door in a public way that makes it seem legitimate.  He wasn't up there bragging about something illegal he wanted the Starbucks people to do."

However, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton thought otherwise, saying, "You may well have an appellate issue. Mr. Kelly.  If I get reversed on it, and you are lucky enough to try the case again, maybe you can convince a different judge to admit that. But the Starbucks presentation is not going in."

Utah's Top Court Provides Reason Why Peremptory Strike of the Only Black Juror Was Not Discriminatory

In a lengthy ruling in State v. Aziakanou, the Utah Supreme Court reproduced extensive, back-and-forth colloquies between the prosecutor, defense counsel, and the judge.  The case is an instructive model for conducting a Batson challenge hearing.

Batson Reforms – State by State

The Death Penalty Clinic at the UC Berkeley Law School is tracking Batson reform proposals across the country.  Their impressive collection of the investigations, working groups, and proposed rules that aim to address Batson issues is found here.

“Justice in the New Digital Era”

That is the title of an article written by Rutgers University criminal justice professor Colleen M. Berryessa, Anne Skove, and Ibrahim Aissam. They assert courts occupy a unique position in a justice system steeped in tradition and formality. Any changes from established procedure are likely to invite challenges to decisions and outcomes based on their legal and constitutional implications. The authors argue it should be no surprise that courts have been slow to embrace technological advances. The reasons for hesitancy have included valid worries about keeping procedural safeguards intact, privacy/security concerns, and (perhaps less valid) concerns about tradition and the skills required to be a good judge or advocate. Nevertheless, technology can be useful in many ways. To make that point, they examine three innovations—video conferencing, text messaging, and cloud storage.

Nominate an innovator in jury operations

The Center for Jury Studies is accepting nominations for the G. Thomas Musterman Award for Jury Innovation, which recognizes states, local courts, individuals, or other organizations that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations, or practices. The nomination deadline has been extended to October 15, 2021. Email nomination letter, as well as submission form, to Greg Mize.

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