Dec 9

final-jur-e headline

Ohio Supreme Court Settles Question About “Public Trial Rights”

In State v. Bond, a jury convicted the defendant of murder. During the trial, a noisy scuffle not involving case participants occurred outside the courtroom during a recess when the jury was in the deliberation room. After conferring with the attorneys, the judge decided to limit access to the courtroom to only family members of the defendant and victim survivors. Defense counsel, not objecting to the courtroom closure at trial, on appeal claimed the closure was a violation of Mr. Bond’s public trial rights and structural error requiring reversal. While agreeing structural error occurred, the high court applied the plain-error rule (the party asserting error must show that an error occurred, that the error was plain, and that the error affected defendant’s substantial rights or the outcome of the trial) and determined the defendant failed to show the limited closure during the state’s case in chief affected his rights or the verdict. “For example, he has not suggested that any of the trial participants failed to fulfill their duties appropriately during the remainder of trial or that the judge or prosecutor engaged in misconduct that went unnoticed because of the courtroom closure. The record indicates that the jurors were unaware of the judge’s decision to limit courtroom access.”

Libertarian Magazine Advocates Jury Nullification in Abortion Prosecutions

Reason magazine recently published an article arguing “resistant jurors can help protect abortion rights (no matter what the law says). In the event of prosecution, jury nullification allows regular people to exercise a veto over the power of the state.”

Texas Voir Dire Reveals Citizen Attitudes About Law Enforcement

After 200 summoned citizens were winnowed down to a 46-person venire, an all-white jury of 14 was selected to hear evidence this week and decide whether a white Fort Worth policeman murdered a black female. Local ABC-TV reports on some of the answers given by citizens who were not selected to serve. For example:

  • “I am sick and tired about the way police officers are treated and how they do their jobs,” one juror said. “You could present your case but I am not going to be unbiased. I couldn’t convict any law enforcement of murder while involved in a shooting because they are doing their jobs and trying to come home to their families.”
  • One potential juror served 32 years as an officer in Tarrant County and said, “You will have an uphill battle convincing me that 10 seconds you can get into his mind and see what he saw and heard.”

Barbados Citizens Are Not Showing Up for Jury Duty

Low summoning yield is not merely a problem for some American courts. The online news outlet Barbados Today is responding to the call of the Barbados chief justice for better citizen participation. The editors make these suggestions to jury managers:

  • A more effective method of jury selection should include removing the number of occasions one can be called to serve.
  • Prior to selection, prospective jurors should be allowed to indicate the number of occasions they are willing to serve beyond the current stipulation.
  • When an individual is selected to perform jury service, that person should be required to respond, indicating their willingness and availability to serve.
  • The selection of jurors should be taken from a larger pool of individuals to make up for any shortfall.
  • The arrangement of restricting members of the public to two opportunities as jurors should be abandoned.

Massive Voir Dire Undertaken in Belgium Prosecution of Terrorist Bombers

Thanks to Reuters, we learn 1,000 citizens were summoned for jury duty in the trial of ten men accused of bombing several transportation sites in Brussels in 2016. Seven hundred of them showed up in a courthouse last week for voir dire. It will be the largest venire in the country’s history.