Dec 16

final-jur-e headline

Does “Fair-Cross-Section” Requirement Apply to Civil Cases?

In Savala v. State, Mr. Savala sued the State of Iowa and others for employment discrimination. He appealed from a defense verdict claiming his voir dire venire violated the fair-cross-section requirement under the Fifth and Seventh amendments. The Iowa Supreme Court determined the U.S. Supreme Court has never applied the Sixth-Amendment-based cross-section doctrine to civil jury trials. Hence, the high court concluded, “We decline Savala’s request to chart new federal constitutional waters by recognizing such a right; that endeavor is best left to the Supreme Court.”

What Is the Proper Way to Investigate Jury Tampering During Deliberations?

A District of Columbia jury convicted Justin Headspeth of several gun offenses. On appeal he claims the trial judge committed reversible error by not granting a mistrial based after disclosure that an unknown Instagram account user posted a picture of the defendant in the courtroom and messaging claiming his “auntie” was on the jury and she had better find the defendant not guilty. The trial judge proceeded to direct the prosecutor to investigate potential jury tampering. After a two-day investigation could only identify the Instagram holders as friends of the defendant, the judge carefully interviewed all jurors about whether they received any Instagram posts. After the jurors denied any receipt of an Instagram, the jury-tampering claim was denied as unverifiable and without evidence. The D.C. Court of Appeals found the judge’s actions met the requirements for investigating tampering, namely:

  • The judge must conduct “a thorough inquiry . . . into whether the defendant suffered actual prejudice.”
  • The defendant has the opportunity to prove actual bias.
  • Where the defendant has established a substantial likelihood of actual prejudice from the unauthorized contact, all reasonable doubts [about the juror’s ability to render an impartial verdict must] be resolved in favor of the accused.
  • Upon a prima facie showing of juror bias or partiality, the burden shifts to the government to demonstrate that the juror's contact with extraneous information was harmless or non-prejudicial. To go forward with the trial, the evidence must justify a high degree of confidence that the likelihood of juror partiality has been rebutted.

Jury Duty: Verdicts and Vicarious Trauma

That is the title of a November Psychology Today article by Dr. Wendy L. Patrick. Referring to research by Michelle Lonergan and others, the author’s key points are:

  • Jurors may experience PTSD, which is linked with avoidance, hyperarousal, intrusion, and symptoms of depression.
  • According to several studies, as many as 50% of jurors experience trauma-related symptoms; a minority suffer for months.
  • Prominent sources of juror stress include deliberations and decision making, tension between jurors, and having to reach a verdict.
  • Structured post-verdict debriefing can reduce stress and improve coping.

Ontario Moves All Jury Eligibility Questionnaires Online

The Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto reports the attorney general for Ontario Province submitted a bill to discontinue postal mailing of jury summons—currently involving 800,000 citizens per year.

Judge May Allow Attorneys to Interview Jurors Long After Verdict

Earlier this fall, Captain Lillian Carranza, a 33-year LAPD veteran, won a $4 million damage award against the department over the internal distribution of a topless photo that was falsely purported to be her. The department is challenging the verdict because of its size and alleged misconduct of several jurors. Carranza’s lawyers maintain they need to talk to the jurors themselves to investigate the defense's misconduct allegations. They assert, “In order for (Carranza) to oppose this claim, plaintiff must be able to contact and interview the members of the jury to inquire about the alleged misconduct and obtain their declarations.” They further argue that to do so they must have the panel members’ personal information, including addresses and telephone numbers. According to KFI AM Radio 640 in Los Angeles, Superior Court Judge Bruce Iwasaki scheduled a December 20 hearing in which jurors may offer any opposition in person, in writing, or by telephone to the granting of the petition for juror contact information.