Aug 26

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Texas Judge Listens to Jury Deliberations, Then Calls for Corrective Actions

According to the Caller Times in Corpus Christi, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct has dismissed complaints alleging that Judge Inna Klein watched jury deliberations in a murder trial over her courtroom camera system with members of her staff, defense counsel, and state prosecutors. In a letter to the judge, the Commission stated: “After a thorough review, as mandated by the laws concerning its procedures, the Commission voted to dismiss the complaints based on the corrective actions you took to address the concerns surrounding the recording of jury deliberations.” The complaint was filed by the district attorney, and the judge was disqualified from some criminal cases based on the complaint. According to KRIS 6 News in Corpus Christi, the judge wrote to a supervising judge: “I found out today that it is possible that everything being said in the courtroom may be recorded. I do not know if it is true but if it is, it means that the jury deliberations, which since Covid has started take place in the courtroom, may also be recorded. Since many of the courts are resuming jury trials, I believe we need to have an urgent meeting to address this issue.”

Trial Judge “Privately” Investigated Potential Juror Bias Relayed to Defense Counsel During Jury Selection

Earlier this week, Adam Fox and Barry Croft were convicted of federal kidnapping and weapons charges. Six hours after the verdict rendering, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker unsealed a report on his investigation of Fox’s defense attorney’s claim during jury selection that one of the jurors expressed a strong opinion to a co-worker about the defendant’s guilt. The Detroit News ($) reports that, during the voir dire stage of the trial, Jonker had his staff privately investigate the claim and then interviewed the subject juror. The judge found the claim to be the product of double hearsay and determined the juror could decide the case on the evidence and not on preconceived views.

Federal Panel Upholds Grand Jury Secrecy Law

In Henry v. Alabama Attorney General, plaintiff William Henry previously testified before an Alabama grand jury that eventually indicted Mike Hubbard, the former speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, for using his elected position for personal gain. Mr. Henry later believed he had information from the grand jury that could help the former speaker’s legal team. Namely, Henry believed one of the grand jurors was aiding the deputy attorney general to force Mike Hubbard out of office for the deputy’s political advantage. Henry claimed this was prosecutorial misconduct that he should disclose but feared violating Alabama’s grand jury secrecy law. Consequently, he sued in this case claiming the secrecy mandate violated his First Amendment speech rights. The 11th federal circuit disagreed, saying the government’s interest in protecting information generated during grand jury processes outweighs a witness’s right to speak. It would be different if the witness had gained the information independently of the grand jury.

What’s Keeping People Away from Jury Service?

Last month the Maryville (Washington) Municipal Court summoned 50 citizens for a pre-scheduled jury trial. Five showed up. Trial postponed. Similarly in Edmonds (Washington) Municipal Court, when 75 to 80 are summoned for a trial, nowadays 20% typically respond. As a result, these courts must undertake the expense of resummoning jurors and rescheduling trials. Now the Everett (Washington) Herald editorial board is sounding a horn for reforming jury trial management. Citing research by two forensic professors at Seattle University, the editorial board lists causes and negative effects from poor summoning yields. These include low juror pay ($10 per day) and demographically unrepresentative trial juries.

Skipping Over Labor Day Weekend

The next issue of Jur-E Bulletin will be published on September 9.