Jan 14

final-jur-e headline

When Jury Foreperson Discloses Prior Contact with Victim’s Family During Deliberations, Trial Court Must Pursue Details

In habeas corpus review of an Ohio murder conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ordered a new trial due to trial judge’s failure to conduct a posttrial hearing on allegations the foreperson (a social worker) told her colleagues during deliberations she had professional contacts with the victim’s family and “The families know me, and I am going to have to go back and see them. These families are my clients.”  The panel faulted the trial judge for not holding an adequate inquiry into the matter.  See, Cunningham v. Shoop, 2002 WL 92594 (January 11, 2022).

After-Trial Jury Misconduct Allegations Seldom Require a Retrial

Last week, the Jur-E Bulletin reported a deliberating juror in the Ghislaine Maxwell case talked about being a victim of sexual abuse while trying to convince other jurors to believe a woman who testified against Maxwell.  In addition, another deliberating juror disclosed being sexually assaulted as a child.  Neither of these jurors disclosed their circumstances during jury selection.  Now, a week after a guilty verdict was rendered, Bloomberg News reporter Stephen L. Carter published an analysis of how such jury misconduct claims don’t usually amount to reversal of verdicts.  He writes, “Why isn’t a juror’s lie enough to force a new trial? Maybe because the opposite rule would leave few convictions standing. By the most cited estimate, an astonishing 25% of those in the jury pool lie either on the questionnaire or during examination in the courtroom. That figure comes from research conducted during the 1990s, but nobody imagines that we as a nation have a greater tendency toward truth today than we did then.”

Who Can We Add to the List of Professionals Saying Voir Dire Is the Most Important Part of a Trial?

Physicians—or at least one.   Lawrence Huntoon, M.D., Ph.D., who has been an expert witness in many trials concerning sham peer reviews of doctors, writes in the winter issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, "Voir dire is the most important part of any trial.  It requires thoughtful strategy and planning…. The more that physicians and their attorneys know about the voir dire process in sham peer review cases, the better chance they have of winning their case."

Trial Judge Commits Reversible Error by Giving Faulty “Reasonable Doubt” Analogy in Preliminary Jury Instructions

In Tibbels v. People, the Colorado Supreme Court found structural error where the trial judge equated the concept of reasonable doubt to the doubt that a prospective homebuyer would have upon observing a structurally significant, floor-to-ceiling crack in the home's foundation.  The court concluded it is “reasonably likely that the jury understood the court's statements to allow a conviction on a standard lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“Is the Pandemic Making Juries Less Fair?”

That is the title of a recent Economist op-ed piece ($).  The authors cite the Ohio judge who required all jurors to be vaccinated in a bellwether trial opioid case (see Jur-E Bulletin, January 7, 2022) thereby likely diminishing the representativeness of the jury pool.  And then in contrast, they describe an opposite approach by other judges:

A New York district-court judge, William Kuntz, wrote in a ruling in September that “The Constitution accords defendants many a right; the right to infect 16 innocent jurors with covid-19, however, is not among them.” Some have even suggested that failing to exclude the unvaccinated may skew the jury in the other direction. Last month Valerie Caproni, a district judge in Manhattan, said that anxiety over the risk from sitting with unvaccinated peers “may impair a juror’s ability to perform his or her duty."