Aug 12

final-jur-e headline

Jurors Could Ask Qs to Witnesses in Alex Jones Trial

Buried within a long story in the New York Times about the recently completed defamation trial in Austin, Texas, we learn that Judge Maya Guerra Gamble allowed the jury to ask written questions of all witnesses.  Reporter Elizabeth Williamson recounted several of questions that judge allowed or disallowed during the punitive damages portion of trial.  For example, forensic economist Bernard Pettingill, J.r, was asked several questions, including if he had ever watched a complete Infowars show; if he had compared the revenue of Infowars before and after the show was forced off social media; if he could explain the definition of a liquidated asset and the difference between the net worth of Mr. Jones and Infowars; and how common it is for business executives to give themselves loans.

Fair Cross-Section Claim Fails Due to Noncompliance with Jury Service & Selection Act Procedures

In Askew v. Police Officer Lindsay, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit emphasized the importance of the time-for-filing requirements of the JSSA and rejected appellant’s claim that Southern District of New York violated his fair cross-section rights under the 6th Amendment.  The appellate panel emphasized a civil litigant must “move to stay the proceedings on the ground of substantial failure to comply with the [JSSA]” and file it “before the voir dire examination begins, or within seven days after the [litigant] discovered or could have discovered, by the exercise of diligence, the grounds therefor, whichever is earlier.”  The court noted this procedure is the “exclusive means” by which a civil litigant may challenge a jury for failing to conform with the JSSA. Askew made no such motion at any stage in the trial proceedings and raised this issue for the first time on appeal. Because he failed to comply with these procedures, his claim was barred.

Trial Court’s Reliance on Juror Demeanor to Grant “For Cause” Strikes Is Validated

In Bridges v. State, Arleshia Bridges was convicted of murdering her husband seven days after their wedding day.  The Georgia Supreme Court approved the trial judge’s striking of three prospective jurors based upon their demeanor.  One struck venire member was a maintenance porter at the defendant’s and victim’s apartment complex and said she “knew and liked” Ms. Bridges. The other two struck jurors disclosed they were prior victims of domestic violence.  With respect to one, the court concluded the juror showed a “leaning or bias” for the defendant.  Regarding the other juror, the court determined her “emotions” would prevent her from complying with the court’s instructions.

Jurors in Michigan Governor Kidnap Case Are News Averse and More Diverse

Jury selection was completed this week in the retrial of two defendants accused of attempting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.  The first trial against them resulted in a mistrial.  The Detroit Free Press reports, while several members of the new jury said they had heard about the case when it initially surfaced two years ago, they noted they have learned very little, if anything, about it since.  A diverse jury was picked this time, whereas the last jury was all white. The panel (including alternates) of ten women and eight men includes two Black women and one Hispanic male.  The story details the backgrounds of the jurors.  At the start of jury selection, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker told the jurors that the case is "potentially more challenging and potentially more interesting" than other trials, given its high profile.  "The victim is our sitting governor. There has been publicity. There have been earlier proceedings," without disclosing that there was a previous trial that ended with no convictions.  He stressed only two things matter:  "This is not a political forum. It's not whether you like Gov. Whitmer or don't like Gov. Whitmer. It's not whether you think mask mandates was good policy or bad policy. . . . Here in court . . . only two things matter: what the law is, and what the evidence is."