Feb 11

final-jur-e headline

Efforts Are Afoot to Undo Arizona Supreme Court’s Abolition of Peremptory Strikes

The Associated Press reports pockets of community opposition to the recent court mandate abolishing peremptory strikes have resulted in Arizona lawmakers advancing a bill to restore the tradition. In the words of one state representative from Mesa, “It’s how we’ve done things for ages and in my opinion is an essential part to our right to a trial by juries. We’re not revolutionizing anything.” A county attorney from Mohave told a legislative committee that eliminating peremptory challenges would result in more deadlocked juries by making it harder to weed out biased or unfair potential jurors.

Hate Crimes Prosecution of Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers Poses Jury Selection Challenges

Jury selection began this week in the hate crimes prosecution of the three men convicted of murdering a Black jogger in Brunswick, Georgia. The Washington Post ($) analyzes the difficulty in selecting a jury in an environment saturated with knowledge of the case.

Because of the intense public interest surrounding the case, the federal jury pool is being drawn from a broader area than typical in federal trials. U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ordered that jury duty notices be mailed to roughly 1,000 people scattered across 43 Georgia counties. Some people summoned for jury service could have a four-hour drive to the courthouse. The judge hasn’t said how long she expects it could take to seat a panel of 12 jurors plus four alternates. In the state’s murder trial, jury selection exceeded two weeks. “I anticipate the jury selection process will be slow,” Wood said in court Monday. “I require that it be careful and methodical and thorough.”

Sutter Jurors Must Be Vaccinated and Boosted

Before jury selection began this week, Law 360 ($) reports a California federal magistrate judge overseeing insurance buyers’ $489 million class action over Sutter Health's allegedly anti-competitive practices agreed at a Monday hearing with the parties’ agreement that prospective jurors should be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 to be considered for service on the upcoming trial. In a colloquy with trial lawyers, Judge Laurel Beeler said public health experts would be consulted to see if masks could be waived with fully boosted courtroom actors.

Virginia Looks to Increase Juror Compensation

State senator Lynwood Lewis’s bill to raise juror daily pay to $100 is advancing in the Virginia General Assembly. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he told his Judiciary Committee colleagues, “I was just completely unaware of the fact that it’s been $30 a day for decades—is my understanding. So, if you’ve got somebody who is working at a chicken plant and gets off for a one-day or two-day or three-day jury trial,” that can have a significant impact on them financially if they aren’t fairly compensated for their jury service. Although the committee members did not express any opposition to the bill, there was a question about the cost of enacting the legislation. After the Commonwealth abolished mandatory jury sentencing last year, it is predicted there will be more jury trials making the bill’s fiscal impact more than $5.3 million per year. The bill subsequently passed the Senate Judiciary and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees with the daily rate lowered to $50.  It will next go for a vote before the full Senate.

Proposal to Retry Non-unanimous Jury Convictions Causes Protests in Oregon

As reported previously in the Jur-E Bulletin, the Supreme Court’s decision in Ramos v. Louisiana nullified any state law that permitted a non-unanimous jury verdict in criminal cases. The Court also ruled that the new doctrine was not retroactive. Now, legislators in Oregon, one of the states affected by the decision, are considering Senate Bill 1511, authorizing defendants who can prove they were convicted by a non-unanimous jury to file for post-conviction relief. If granted, their case would be returned to its county of origin, where local district attorneys would decide whether to retry the case or drop the charges. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports opposition to the bill is rising due to expressed concerns of prosecutors and victims in such cases and the difficulty of determining whether a verdict was non-unanimous in hundreds of old cases.

Correction for the Record

In last week’s Bulletin, we misstated a couple of background facts in the story about the Kentucky trial of Brett Hankison. For the record, Mr. Hankison is a former Kentucky police officer, and he was charged with “recklessly endangering” the lives of three people in an apartment complex where Breonna Taylor was located. Thanks to Mark M. Dalton, District Court Administrator in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for flagging this.