Sept 10

final-jur-e headline

Jury's Death Penalty Verdict Against Dylann Roof Affirmed by 4th Circuit

In United States v. Roof, defendant was convicted of murdering twelve parishioners and church leaders of Charleston’s historic Mother Emanuel—all African Americans—gathered in the Fellowship Hall for their weekly Bible study.  The trial court permitted Roof to represent himself during jury selection and the penalty phase of the capital case.  In keeping with Roof’s desire to represent himself, the court authorized appointed counsel to serve only in an advisory, standby capacity during those segments.  On appeal to the 4th federal circuit court, Roof raised almost two dozen legal issues.

In a lengthy opinion, the appellate body rejected all his legal arguments.  The circuit court developed jurisprudence on several jury-related issues.  A defendant has a 6th Amendment right to represent himself during capital sentencing.  Neither the Constitution nor the Federal Death Penalty Act requires mitigation evidence be presented to a jury during the penalty phase over defendant’s objection.  The panel determined the trial court properly answered the deliberating jury’s questions about the mitigating factor of “lack-of-future dangerousness.”  And in a murky area of caselaw, the circuit judges opined a trial court has no duty to inform a defendant of the ability to selectively use counsel for different parts of the trial.  Interestingly, the Associated Press reported that all judges on the 4th circuit recused themselves from hearing Roof’s appeal.  One of their own, Judge Jay Richardson, prosecuted Roof’s case as an assistant U.S. Attorney. The panel that heard arguments in May and issued the ruling last week was composed of judges from several other appellate circuits.

Holmes/Theranos Voir Dire Provides Case Study in Striking Jurors for Cause

Last week a lengthy jury selection process wrapped up in the fraud prosecution of Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Theranos.  Law 360 ($) and Connect FM 96.7 describe numerous for cause challenges that federal judge Edward Davila ruled on.  The Q&As between judge and prospective jurors are instructive.  Reuters reports that Judge Davila is excusing any prospective juror who is not vaccinated.  The trial is expected to last at least 13 weeks.

Prosecutor’s Closing Argument Referencing the O.J. Simpson Case Leads to Conviction Reversal

According to the Seattle Times, an intermediate appellate court in Washington State concluded that a prosecutor’s “reference to The People v. O.J. Simpson and an implicit bias exercise were improper” invocations of racial stereotypes that justify a reversal of the jury verdict.

Missouri Noneconomic Damages Cap Found to Be Constitutional

Lexology reports that the Missouri Supreme Court in Ordinola Velazquez v. University Physician Associates et al. has found the legislative cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases does not violate the state constitution.

Massachusetts Courts Establish Supports to Address Juror Stress

Here is a video clip showing what the Massachusetts courts are doing to address posttrial stress of jurors.  This video explains to jurors that the courts have engaged counselors from the Riverside Trauma Center to give up to three free posttrial “supportive listenings” to former jurors who have been negatively affected by their jury service.