Feb 4

final-jur-e headline

Defense Attorney’s Interjection of Racial Stereotypes During Jury Selection Leads to Conviction Reversal

In Dean v. NarvaizaMr. Dean was convicted of attempted murder and lesser charges.  During jury selection, his lawyer asked the prospective jurors if they had any preconceived ideas about African Americans having “certain attributes.” None of the prospective jurors answered that they did. The lawyer responded, “You don't?” and followed with a discussion involving several offensive racial stereotypes. He insisted that the prospective  jurors must have heard that all African Americans “like watermelon” or “have an attribute of violence, that they are sneaky.” Again, no one on the venire responded.  Despite receiving no affirmative response, counsel asked if any of the prospective jurors could not evaluate Dean “as just another guy, not a black guy?”  In Dean’s habeas corpus petition to the Nevada Supreme Court, the court concluded that the district court erred in denying Dean's post-conviction petition, “as counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and resulted in prejudice. We therefore reverse the district court's order denying Dean's petition and remand for further proceedings.”

Policeman Charged with Murder Loses Request to Bar Media from the Courtroom

The trial of Kentucky police officer Brett Hankison is currently underway in Louisville.  He is charged in the homicide of Breonna Taylor in a botched police raid.  Wave News, a local news media outlet, reports Hankison’s attorney asked the trial judge to bar the media from jury selection because of biased media coverage of the case.  Judge Ann Bailey Smith denied the motion saying the defendant had not “carried his burden of overcoming the presumption of openness of criminal trials.”

In Praise of Civil Grand Juries

Santa Clara's The Mercury News ($) features an op-ed piece by Michael Krey, who is co-president of the Santa Clara County chapter of the California Grand Jurors’ Association.  He describes the 150-year history and intended role of civil grand juries (CGJs) in California Superior Courts.  He believes the virtues of civil grand juries are demonstrated by a recent grand jury’s finding Sheriff Laurie Smith is taking bribes in return for concealed firearms permits.  Krey asserts the Smith accusations stem from the “unique power of the CGJ… to investigate elected or appointed officials—compelling testimony using subpoena powers—and decide if they’ve uncovered enough evidence to make an accusation of ‘willful or corrupt misconduct.’  This can lead to a trial that in turn may result in forcing the official from office.”

Court Allows Unvaccinated to Serve on Juries

In contrast to prior Jur-E Bulletin stories about how some judges require jurors to be vaccinated, The Middletown Press in Dover, Delaware, reports on a contrasting policy.  Trial judge Joshua Wolson ruled people who are not “up to date” on their COVID-19 vaccines cannot be excluded from the jury pool for a criminal trial starting this week.   He believes the Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a trial by an impartial jury drawn from diverse segments of the population, and that the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to weaken that right.  Specifically, he stated, “While it is easy to invoke the trope of ‘health’ to justify intrusions on liberty, such as limits on jury trials or the eligible members of a jury pool, the Supreme Court has indicated that the Constitution provides a bulwark against those intrusions.”

Online Media Site Promotes Ways to “Legally” Get Out of Jury Service

Court jury managers take note.  Legal Scoops, an online newspaper, is broadcasting ways to persuade a court to excuse citizens from jury duty.  For example. “Speak up if you know something about the case or someone involved because this is a legal excuse not to serve as a juror, including relatives, employers, or any other personal relationship, even with a witness. The same applies to a bias about the case; tell the court, which will excuse you.”  And there is this call to would-be thespians: “Being vocal, hostile, or a know-it-all often makes lawyers uncomfortable because they are unsure if the evidence will persuade them. You can try this tactic to get yourself excused.”