Will Vaccine Mandate Skew Jury Composition?

final-jur-e headline

Will Vaccine Mandate Skew Jury Composition?

A bellwether, multidistrict case against major pharmacies for their handling of large opioid drug orders is scheduled for a jury trial in Ohio beginning September 29. Earlier this month, federal judge Dan Aaron Polster ruled that unvaccinated citizens cannot serve as jurors. (He stopped short of making vaccination a requirement for attorneys and witnesses.) The defendants thereafter sought reconsideration of the ruling. They asserted, because vaccination rates vary by race, gender, and political views, the vaccination requirement will improperly affect the representativeness of the jury. Law 360 summarizes the defense position this way:

  • Ohio's Department of Health reported that only 42.6% of the state's population was fully vaccinated as of June 16, the pharmacies said in their motion for reconsideration. And the current available data indicates the vaccinated population differs from the unvaccinated population in “key geographic and demographic metrics.”
  • More women have been vaccinated than men, and more whites and Asian Americans have been vaccinated than African Americans.
  • “Ample evidence suggests that vaccination rates also vary substantially based on political and social views,” according to the motion, which added that vaccinations have lagged in areas of the state that voted to reelect former President Donald Trump and among those with lower levels of education and income.

After reconsidering his ruling a few days later, Judge Polster said the “pharmacy defendants make good points.”

There is another bellwether trial involving opioid drugs that was supposed to begin in New York this week. The state and two New York counties are the plaintiffs. The trial is now delayed until at least June 28 because jury selection has been unexpectedly slow. Law 360 reports the case will involve hundreds of witnesses and several types of drug companies, including drug manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies. Given the case’s girth, the trial will take place at the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center at Touro College, which is larger than any nearby courthouse facility.

Trial Judge Struggles to Limit Jurors’ Exposure to Pornographic Evidence

Federal judge Patti B. Saris will shortly be presiding over a trial in which a Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts homeowner is suing film makers who rented her house and secretly used it for making pornographic movies. While recognizing the plaintiff wants to use films to make her case for damages, Saris is struggling to minimize the layings bare before jurors’ eyes. Law 360 reports on the judge’s dilemma:

I do think there will be many people who are truly offended” by the films, the judge said Tuesday, adding that the films sent to her office remain locked in a bottom drawer. “I'm worried about putting a jury through this. I'm not sure of the right answer, honestly.”

Judge Saris urged the parties to use their “creative energies” on the conundrum and consider whether clips or pictures could stand in for the full films.

“Come up with way of giving symbolic exhibits, if you will, clips from movies or a couple of photos,” Judge Saris said.

Prosecutor Agrees with Defense Counsel—Striking 12 Black Prospective Jurors Was Illegal

U.S. News and World Report describes how a new Louisiana DA agreed with defense counsel that the trial prosecutor exercised peremptory strikes in a discriminatory way. Consequently, the trial judge vacated a murder conviction without the necessity of an appeal.

Defendant Gets New Trial, and Prosecutor Becomes a Defendant

ABC4.com in Utah describes Conrad Truman’s saga of first being tried and convicted of murdering his wife, retried and acquitted, and thereafter filing a civil lawsuit against the prosecutor and police for knowingly falsifying the evidence against him. But that is not the whole story. The federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last week reversed a federal trial judge’s dismissal of the civil suit. In doing so, the appellate panel observed that Truman’s allegations “shock the conscience.”