May 6

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What to Do When a Juror’s Girlfriend and His Boss Research the Case During Trial?

InUnited States v. Aiyer, the 2nd Federal Circuit was called upon to determine whether a trial judge erroneously allowed handled a post-verdict report from Juror #6 that Juror #3 announced during deliberations, “The judge said we cannot talk about or look up information about the case, he never said that my girlfriend can't,” and “even my boss looked up the case.” Juror No. 6 also asserted that Juror No. 3 said he “had looked up information on members of the counsel” and commented on one attorney's appearance.  In a thorough analysis, the circuit court upheld the underlying conviction.  The panel determined the trial judge properly interviewed Juror No. 3 about whether he had conducted any outside “research about the case or any of the parties or the lawyers” before the jury reached its verdict.  The judge found significant that Juror No. 3 “unequivocally” said that he had not. In addition, Juror No. 3 informed the judge that (a) when his girlfriend asked about the case, he told her he was not permitted to discuss it; (b) his father had become aware of the case's name; (c) he had learned, post trial, that his office manager had researched the case; and (d) the jurors had nicknames for some of the lawyers.

Kentucky Grand Jury Size Limits Strictly Enforced

The Bluegrass State’s constitution provides that a grand jury cannot exceed twelve persons.  CBS affiliate WKYT reports that a pair of high-profile murder convictions from 2019 will need to be re-prosecuted because more than twelve grand jurors voted on an indictment.  This miscue now leads not only to a costly new case but also to a judicial scolding of the commonwealth attorney.

Let’s Use Big Data to Improve Jury Diversity

NCSC’s popular Tiny Chat series recently conducted a video dialogue with American University law professor Andrew Ferguson who has written extensively on the relationship between big data and the law.  In the last segment of the 15-minute interview, he describes how data technology can help improve the representativeness of juries.  He also criticizes court systems that tepidly engage with big data to improve summoning yields and achieve fair cross-sections in jury pools.

More Jury-Selection Delay in Parkland Shooting Capital Case

Recent issues of the Jur-E Bulletin reported on the delays and confusion that have plagued the capital sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.  The fourth week of jury selection in Cruz’s trial was postponed after Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer granted a prosecution motion to restart jury selection based upon the improper removal of 11 jurors from the case, then later reversed her decision and ordered the jurors to be recalled for additional questioning.  The Death Penalty Information Center reports when the trial reconvened this week, jury questioning was put off for another week as a result of an apparent medical issue involving one of Cruz’s lawyers.

Big Challenge: Finding Impartial Jurors in a Small County

With 800 citizens having been summoned, jury selection is underway in rural Ocilla (population 3,498) in Irwin County, Georgia (population 9,666).  There, Ryan Duke is charged with the killing Tara Grinstead, a popular schoolteacher and beauty queen who went missing 16 years ago.  After years of community searching for her body (including the draining of swamps), her body was found in a pecan orchard.  CBS TV channel 13WMAZ in Georgia reports it’s rare to find a person in town who does not know the name Tara Grinstead. Her picture is “sketched in their minds” and on memorial tee shirts. “Everybody loved her….  It’s a big thing. Ocilla ain’t never had anything this big,” said Joyce Pitts.  Miles Maher, one of hundreds in Ocilla who can say they have some connection with Tara added, “We waited 11 years to see what had happened….  Nice lady. She helped my daughter with her prom dress. Helped her with her makeup for prom for my daughter’s last school year.”