Voir Dire in Young Thug Trial Demonstrates Many Juror Hardships. How Can Policy-Makers Respond?
An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and TV channel 11Live vividly demonstrate multiple ways jury service can pose hardships for citizens. Journal-Constitution reporters Shaddi Abusaid and Jozsef Papp recount many claims of hardship among the hundreds of citizens summoned to serve in the criminal trial involving rapper Young Thug. For example, Juror No. 349 lives in south Fulton County and has struggled to make it to court as both his and his wife’s cars are broken down. He told the judge, “I’ve been borrowing cars to get up here because I ain’t got no ride.” His mother has been kind enough to let him borrow her car for now, but there’s no telling how long it might take him to fix his own vehicle. Others have said they can’t afford to pay their mortgage or rent if they must serve for the six to nine months, which is how long the trial is expected to take. Of the 600 potential jurors who showed up for court at the beginning of the year, more than 200 have claimed a hardship. Another 300 potential jurors are set to report February 24 to replace those who have been excused for hardships. About 250 people have been excused so far.
Georgia Judge Orders Jury Duty Scofflaws to Explain Themselves in Open Court
In a civil case against opioid suppliers in Brunswick County, 37 of the 180 citizens summoned for jury duty failed to show up. In response, circuit judge Roger Lane ordered sheriff’s deputies to deliver summonses to the scofflaws directing them to show up in his courtroom to explain their absences. The Brunswick News quotes Sheriff Neal Jump to say, “This is not an uncommon practice for a judge to do that periodically. Unfortunately, you have to get their attention. We will do the job the judge sets forth.”
Defendant’s Absence During Closing Arguments & Instructions—Reversible Error?—Ambiguous Transcript Dictates the Answer
In State v. Rademacher, defendant was convicted of several felonies stemming from multiple vehicular homicides. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, he claims that his absence from the courtroom during closing arguments and final instructions violated his constitutional and procedural rights to be present at all critical times in his trial. Rademacher’s sole support for his appeal is a statement by the judge made after closing arguments and final jury instructions that “[t]he defendant has been taken back to the jail.” Rademacher argues the judge's statement is in the past tense, meaning he was absent when the statement was made. Rademacher argues because it is unclear exactly when he was removed from the courtroom, we must conclude he was not in the courtroom before the jury was excused to deliberate. The high court denied the appeal citing an elliptical trial transcript that suggested he was present for parts of the times in question. The opinion includes quotes from the ambiguous transcripts and serves a lesson in the adage, “Make your record clear.”
Federal Courts Offer Law Day 2023 Planning Resources
In a press release, the U.S. Courts announced civility in the law and in life is the focus of the judiciary’s 2023 Law Day resources for teachers, judges, and the legal community. Courtroom and classroom activities that give students real-life experience with civil discourse and solid decision-making skills are at the heart of the judiciary’s national initiative Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions. The court program, which is active in almost every circuit across the country, is a natural tie-in with the American Bar Association’s 2023 Law Day theme, “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration.” Celebrated on May 1 and throughout the month, Law Day has been a visible part of American legal culture since President Eisenhower established it in 1958 to celebrate the rule of law in a free society. During the event, students participate in jury deliberations on teen-relevant issues in federal courtrooms, where judges preside and attorney volunteers coach students through a realistic hearing. Students practice the civil discourse skills they observe and learn from the judge and attorneys. To find a program at the nearest federal courthouse, contact the federal courts’ national educational outreach manager, Rebecca Fanning. Visit the educational resources section for additional programs and activities.