June 3

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Facial Action Coding Software Available for Use in Jury Selection

The ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels podcast features a fascinating interview with Aaron Itzkowitz (CEO of Emotion Trac) about his enterprise to make facial expression technology available to lawyers for marketing and jury selection purposes.  Mr. Itzkowitz estimates the technology has been used in about 50 cases across the country.

NY Considers Bill to Provide Jury Trials in Human Rights Complaints Seeking Equitable Relief

NY Senate Bill 7394 is advancing to the floor of the state senate.  It would amend the NY human rights laws to provide, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, when a person commences an action pursuant to this subdivision or pursuant to a local human rights law, and such action includes a demand for equitable relief, such person shall nevertheless retain the right to a jury trial.”

Louisiana Legal Community Braces for Huge Return of Split-Verdict Case Reversals

As reported previously, in 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Louisiana and Oregon laws that authorized non-unanimous verdicts in criminal cases.  The High Court in Ramos v. Louisiana applied the new unanimous verdict requirement prospectively to trials involving crimes that occurred after January 1, 2019.  Last month the Louisiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Reddick v. Louisiana where the defendant is seeking retroactive application of the Ramos doctrine.  The Houma Courier ($) now reports on the claims made by prosecutors that, if Reddick wins on appeal, approximately 1,500 cases (some more than a decade old) will need to be retried – if evidence can be reconstituted at a much later trial date.  Terrebonne Parish DA Joe Waitz, Jr. says, "If we have to go back retroactively to find witnesses in a 10, 15 or 20-year-old case, how do we do that?  Storms have destroyed courthouses; evidence has been lost and witnesses have died. We're stuck in a very terrible situation of having to recreate these cases years down the road. It's not fair….  If the legislature, governor, or supreme court wants to change the rules at this time, that's fine," he said. "But everybody played by the rules that were in place at the time and are playing by the rules that are in effect now. So having to go back is a total injustice, especially to victims that have been through a lot of serious crimes. To have to put them back through it again would be a travesty."  To which, defense attorney John Thomas asserted more work for prosecutors is not an excuse to deny people their constitutional rights.

Many Witnesses Subpoenaed by Georgia Grand Jury Investigating Allegations Against Former President Trump and Others

According to The New York Times ($), the district attorney for Fulton County (Atlanta) is weighing racketeering charges connected to various attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.  As a grand jury convenes this week, head DA Fani T. Willis plans to subpoena as many as 50 witnesses who thus far have declined to testify voluntarily.

9th Circuit Finds Mere Audio Streaming of Trial Violates the 6th Amendment

The National Law Journal ($) reports the U.S. Appeals Court for the 9th Circuit vacated a firearms conviction in United States v. Allen because the trial judge limited public access to the trial to audio-only transmissions.  While the panel acknowledged the lower court's decision was rooted in an interest in stemming the spread of COVID-19, the appellate panel said there were alternative protocols it could have employed that would have allowed some visual access.  The court likened audio-only access to providing a mere transcript of the proceedings.  Writing for the court, Judge Sandra Ikuta declared, "During the pandemic, federal trial courts throughout the country addressed the same issue as the district court here. These courts... consistently allowed some form of visual access to the trial, either by allowing the public to view a live video feed of the trial in a separate room in the courthouse, or by allowing a limited number of spectators to be present in the courtroom.  That other jurisdictions could address the pandemic using more targeted means suggests that the district court here had 'too readily forgone options that could serve its interests just as well, without substantially burdening' Allen's public trial right."