Mar 11

final-jur-e headline

The Case of the Juror Who Punches Himself During Deliberations

In State of Washington v. Norman, a jury found the defendant guilty of assault.  During deliberations the foreperson informed the court that juror 9 was punching his face during stressful disagreements among his colleagues.  The trial judge with the attorneys present conducted an interview with the subject juror asking him to describe his feelings and whether he thinks his behavior would occur again.  Juror 9 replied, “I'm more prepared to handle and deal with it, and if I feel like it is getting to that point again, I will simply ask the jury for a break and take a small break and cool down so it doesn't occur again.”  In lengthy Q & A recorded in the appellate opinion, the judge then separately interviewed two other jurors, including the foreperson, asking whether, if the subject juror remained on the jury, their deliberations would be less fulsome and affect reaching a verdict.  Both jurors answered in the negative—one with a caveat that it is hard to predict whether he will act that way again.   At the prosecutor’s request and over defense objection, the trial judge dismissed the juror due to fears about his inhibiting future deliberations.  The appeals court reversed the conviction, concluding the disturbed juror had “an extreme reaction to the stressful deliberation process where the trial court was aware that there was a reasonable possibility that the stress arose from the juror's views on the merits of the case. The trial court dismissing Juror 9 under these circumstances violated Norman's right to a unanimous verdict. Also, the removal may have suggested to the reconstituted jury that the court preferred guilty verdicts, violating Norman's right to an impartial jury.”

“Jury Nullification as a Spectrum”

That is the title of an article written by Southwestern Law School professor Richard Lorren Jolly.  He asserts it is time to reassess jury nullification, which he describes as a largely antiquated institutional power.  He proposes “a more capacious understanding” of jury nullification, conceptualizing it as the routine injection of extralegal considerations into the jury’s decision making.  Jolly contends that all jury verdicts—criminal and civil—fall upon a nullification spectrum in which such considerations exert greater or lesser influence regardless of the jurors’ intentions or whether the verdict appears reasonable on its face.  It is available at the Pepperdine Law Review, 49 Pepp. L. Rev. 341 (2022).

Judge in Palin v. New York Times Defends His Case Dismissal Before Jury Verdict

Law 360 ($) reports U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff stands by his judgment to dismiss Sarah Palin’s lawsuit before jury deliberations despite jurors receiving push notifications of his action during their deliberations.  Author Rachel Scharf writes, the judge’s 68-page opinion explained he "was not familiar with the term 'push notification"' when attorneys initially raised the issue during deliberations, and that he "did not fully appreciate the potential for jurors to be involuntarily informed about the court's intended ruling through their smart phones."  In spite of this "unfortunate" incident, Rakoff believes jurors when they say that knowledge of the dismissal ruling did not influence their deliberations or the resulting verdict. "While some outsiders, totally unfamiliar with the exceptional jury in this case, have been quick to assume otherwise, the court knows of no reason why the highly conscientious citizens who served as jurors in this case would be so firm that they were unaffected by this information unless it were true." He added it does not actually matter whether the verdict was rightly decided, given that procedurally it has been supplanted by his dismissal ruling. Judge Rakoff said he merely allowed the jury to continue deliberating to avoid a retrial if his decision were reversed on appeal.

Boston Bomber Co-Defendant Loses Claim Voir Dire Questioning Was Inadequate

InUnited States v. Tsarnaev, the U.S. Supreme Court (6 to 3) last week overturned a First Circuit Court of Appeals decision vacating the defendant’s death sentence.  The circuit court, exercising “supervisory authority” of trial practices, reasoned the district court abused its discretion during jury selection by declining to ask about the kind and degree of each prospective juror’s media exposure, as required by that court’s decision in Patriarca v. United States, and it abused its discretion during sentencing when it excluded crucial evidence in the sentencing phase.   Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion, essentially saying “supervisory authority” cannot be used to circumvent or supplement established legal standards for voir dire questioning.