Oct 28

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District of Columbia Produces Model Jury Service Appreciation Program

With assistance of the Council for Court Excellence (CCE), a civic NGO partnering with the Bar Association of D.C., the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, and the Washington Bar Association, the District of Columbia Superior Court celebrated Juror Appreciation Week last month. From September 12 through 16, a series of model activities were launched. These included members of the community sending jurors hand-written thank-you notes, expressions of thanks from judges and others, and broadcast of a juror appreciation video featuring D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, Superior Court Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring, Councilmember Charles Allen, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, and other local leaders. Throughout each day of the week, jurors were treated to refreshments and a customized chair yoga video from Move Well DC for some accessible movement. (The D.C. Courts may be the first American judiciary to create a Juror Appreciation Week. It was instituted by CCE in 1990 to impress upon D.C. residents the vital importance of juries to the fair functioning of our democracy and to show gratitude for this significant civic duty.)

Louisiana Supreme Court Nixes Retroactive Application of SCOTUS Unanimous Verdict Doctrine

The Louisiana Illuminator reports Louisiana’s highest court handed down an opinion Friday that said the ruling doesn’t apply retroactively, meaning some 1,500 felons currently in prison on split-jury verdicts won’t get a new day in court. Split-jury convictions are a relic of the Jim Crow era, the post-Civil War period when Southern states and localities adopted laws that limited the voice and freedom of Black citizens. By allowing 10-2 or 11-1 verdicts in felony criminal cases, a court could silence the dissenting voices of Black jurors. Louisiana passed a state constitutional amendment in 2018 that did away with split juries, but lawmakers only succeeded in getting the proposal on the ballot because they agreed not to make it apply to crimes committed before its effective date in 2019. The issue of applying the new standard retroactively emerged again the following year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ramos v. Louisiana that nonunanimous juries are unconstitutional. Later in 2020, justices decided not to apply their decision to older split decisions. In 2021, the Louisiana legislature considered opening the doors to allow new trials for split-jury convictions, but majority lawmakers killed the proposal.

Jury Scholar Asserts Impartial New York Jurors Are Attainable in Trial Against Trump Organization

Brandeis University Professor Jeffrey Abramson is the author of the popular and authoritative book We, the Jury—The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy. Jury selection started this week in Manhattan where the Trump Organization is charged with tax fraud. Recognizing that it will be difficult to find impartial jurors in a place where many or most New Yorkers have followed the news about the case and have strong feelings about Donald Trump (not charged), Abramson argues in NBC News’s online magazine Think that he believes it is feasible to find open-minded jurors among the 132 summoned citizens. He concludes, “It’s not that we should expect the selection process to produce a jury that is politically impartial when it comes to Donald Trump. That’s impossible, as there will no doubt be pro- and anti-Trump jurors. But it is possible to find jurors who put their obligations to the law above their political loyalties and what they’ve read in the press. What we should not expect is the impossible and the indefensible—jurors whose only questionable qualification is their ignorance of events every attentive citizen should know about.”

Did Convicted Christmas Parade Murderer Submit a Fake Juror Post to Reddit?

The Jur-E Bulletin previously reported on the challenges facing the trial judge in the Milwaukee trial of Darrell Brooks for vehicular homicide of six persons. Mr. Brooks was convicted by a jury earlier this week. Matt Bender at the online site Mashable reports the judge is concerned about a suspicious Reddit post allegedly created by a juror during deliberations. Court TV commentators suggest it was Brooks who created the posting.

Ohio Judge Gives Deadlocked Jury an Option: Keep Trying or Quit Deliberations. They Quit.

According to the Associated Press, the murder trial of an Ohio man accused of fatally shooting four members of his family, including his wife, ended in a mistrial Friday after the jury said it could not reach a unanimous verdict. The ruling came shortly after Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Howard had rejected a mistrial motion made by lawyers for Gurpreet Singh. They cited potential misconduct by two jurors who were reportedly arguing loudly with each other during deliberations and calling each other names. After Howard rejected that request, he gave the jury a form to complete. It had two options: Continue deliberating or decide that further deliberations would not do any good. The jury chose the latter option a short time later.