Retired Public Defender Comments on the Pretrial Questionnaire Used in the George Floyd Murder Case

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Retired Public Defender Comments on the Pretrial Questionnaire Used in the George Floyd Murder Case

NPR’s Ari Shapiro interviewed Mary Moriarty, former chief public defender for Hennepin County, Minnesota about the14-page jury questionnaire used in jury selection this week.

Defendant’s Attempt to Play an Implicit Bias Video During Voir Dire Denied

In United States v. Mercado-Gracia, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit determined that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in refusing defendant’s request to play a video during jury selection to educate prospective jurors about implicit bias.  The 11-minute video was produced by the federal district court for the Western District of Washington.  The defendant, born in Mexico, contended that historically there is strong anti-Mexican sentiment in the community, and the video would help jurors become aware of any such unconscious influences.  The appellate panel found no error in the trial judge’s denial of the defendant’s request.  It reasoned that the trial court adequately addressed Mercado-Gracia’s concerns by asking this open-court question during voir dire: “One thing I want to say to you is that the defendant is of Mexican ancestry and so what I want to know is whether any of you would be inclined to believe the defendant is guilty based on, you know nothing yet about the case, but based on the fact that he is of Mexican ancestry and is charged with these drug and firearm charges, any of you, are any of you inclined to think he is guilty based on those facts?”

SDNY Trial Continues After Juror Tests Positive for COVID-19

On the fourth day of an expected three-week trial in Manhattan, a juror tested positive for COVID-19.  Federal judge Jed S. Rakoff decided to replace that juror with an alternate.  The remaining jurors all tested negative, and the trial resumed after a three-day break.  At that time Judge Rakoff told the jurors, “"I'm delighted to hear that you all tested negative. It's rare in life that negative is a good thing,"

Scottish Court Addresses Juror Misconduct

In a continuing effort to appreciate how jury trials are conducted in other countries, the Scottish Legal News Ltd. shows us how a report of juror misconduct in a murder case was investigated.  After one of the trial lawyers reported to the judge that three jurors were overheard talking about the case at a bus stop, including expressions about how they had already made up their minds about the case, the trial judge directed the court clerk to investigate the matter.  Upon review, an appellate court approved the investigative delegation despite an allegation that the clerk called the reporting lawyer a “liar.”

If You Have a Batson Appeal to File in Georgia, How Do You Search the Voir Dire Record?

Good luck—transcripts are not required. In Pearson v. State, a jury convicted Mr. Pearson of several felonies connected to an armed robbery.  On appeal he argued the lack of a transcript of his trial's juror voir dire, opening statements, and closing arguments violates his due process rights under the United States and Georgia constitutions because he cannot supplement the transcript to support his claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.  The state supreme court rejected his claim stating, "Under OCGA ยง 17-8-5 (a), '[t]he arguments of counsel at trial are not required to be transcribed,' and '[v]oir dire is not required to be transcribed unless the prosecution is seeking the death penalty.'"

Oregon’s Non-Unanimous Jury Verdict Law Still Valid Regarding Acquittals

Despite the 2020 SCOTUS decision in Ramos v. Louisiana outlawing non-unanimous verdicts in felony cases, the Oregon Supreme Court in State v. Ross concluded that its old non-unanimous verdict law requires unanimity for guilty verdicts but permits not guilty verdicts by a vote of 11 to 1 or 10 to 2.