Ensuring that minority groups are treated fairly in the legal process is an important concern. The Castaneda v. Partida and Duren v. Missouri decisions enable courts to monitor the demographic composition of the selection of potential jurors using a variety of statistical techniques. This paper shows that Fisher’s exact test is appropriate for examining statistical data on peremptory challenges when Batson issues are raised. In addition to being a well-established method, it evaluates the challenges made by each party assuming the other side is fair. Thus, it is consistent with the Supreme Court’s statement in Miller-El that the defendant’s pattern of challenges is not relevant in determining whether the prosecution’s challenges were fair. Although one has the entire population of potential jurors and the number of peremptory challenges, which are regarded a sample from the venire, both the population and the sample are of small size. This limits the power of the test to detect a system in which the odds a minority member is challenged are two or three times those of a majority member. When data is available for similar or related trials, an appropriate method for combining the Fisher tests for each trial is noted. In every case where the Supreme Court found discrimination in peremptory challenges and the data is reported, even though the power of Fisher’s exact test is low, it found a statistically significant difference in the proportions of minority members of the venire and majority members removed. It also finds a statistically significant excess of African-Americans were challenged by the prosecutor in Foster. In a case where the Court did not find bias in peremptory challenges the test did not have sufficient power to detect a substantial disparity, so the Court properly did not give the statistics much weight.
Juries are deeply enshrined by the U.S. Constitution and firmly embedded in our system of justice. Thus, it is surprising that jurors do not yet have something akin to their own widely adopted bill of rights. Regrettably, this is the result of too many trial judges failing to practice WWWJ — “what would jurors want” — a jury centered approach to judging. The state of Arizona, with its launch in 1993 of the Arizona Jury Project, is the pioneering jurisdiction of a more jury-centered approach. If trial judges embraced WWJW it would engender greater respect for jurors and lead to trial innovations which would significantly enhance the juror experience. These innovations would also increase the fairness of jury trials. Adopting a bill of rights for jurors improves jurors’ positive experiences and feelings about trial by jury as they participate in the purest form of democracy in action. This article proposes five bill of rights that have been proven to achieve these goals. If adopted by courts and practiced by trial judges, jurors across the nation will exit courthouses as our greatest community ambassadors for the Sixth and Seventh Amendment rights to trial by jury. This is an important step to ensuring that vanishing civil jury trials are not, going, going, gone
This Essay argues that prosecutors should not allow grand juries to consider indicting defendants whom the prosecutors themselves believe should not be indicted. To illustrate the problems with this practice, this Essay uses the example of St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch – who encouraged deliberations by the grand jury that heard evidence concerning the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, despite personally believing that Brown’s killer, police officer Darren Wilson, should not be indicted. The arguments against allowing grand juries to conduct such needless deliberations include (1) the exercise wastes the time of citizens forced to serve on grand juries; (2) the deliberations might, despite the prosecutor’s wishes, result in indictments contrary to the interests of justice; and (3) by “passing the buck” to the grand jury, the prosecutor evades accountability for his own decisions.
Previous research shows that clients of public defenders are not necessarily more likely to be convicted than those who hire private attorneys, but this work largely reflects cases adjudicated through plea bargains. Little attention has been devoted to how the context of a trial shapes outcomes across defendants with private and public defense counsel. In this paper, I outline how disparities in resources and differences in courtroom roles may put public defenders at a distinct disadvantage in cases adjudicated through trial, leading to higher rates of trial conviction among indigent defendants. Then, I explore this using data from an NCSC study of 314 felony jury trials in four urban jurisdictions. The data include both the jury’s verdict as well as the judge’s evaluation of the defendant’s guilt, which permit comparison of jury verdicts with probable bench verdicts. I find that judges’ evaluations of defendant guilt do not differ across type of counsel, but defendants who rely on public defenders about twice as likely to be convicted by the jury compared to those who hire private attorneys. And, among defendants who would have been convicted by the judge, those who have a private attorney are nearly 2.7 times as likely to be acquitted by the jury. These disparities are not explained by differences in case characteristics, amount of evidence presented at trial, and evaluations of attorney skill. I conclude by urging further research to examine the mechanisms through which indigent defendants may be disadvantaged in jury trials.
This paper examines empirically why sophisticated parties in some merger and acquisition deals choose to waive their right to jury trials and some do not. We examine merger agreements for a large sample of 276 deals for the 11-year period 2001 to 2011. We exclude private company deals and those where the choice of forum and law is Delaware. First, we find that 48.2% of the deals have jury waiver clauses. Second, we find that deals in which New York is chosen as the governing law and forum state are more likely to include a jury waiver clause. No other state has such an effect. Third, we find that contracts negotiated by counsel from high reputation law firms tend to include jury waiver clauses, and this effect is more significant for the acquirer’s law firm than for the target’s law firm. Fourth, we find strong evidence for the bargaining power hypothesis wherein larger acquirers that take over smaller targets are more likely to include jurywaiver clauses. Finally, we find no evidence that lawyer familiarity, industry-effects, whether the acquirer was an international firm, or whether the deal was completed has a statistically significant impact on the likelihood of having a jury waiver clause.
A New York city fortuneteller is attempting to use an undisclosed jury note as grounds to overturn her conviction of grand larceny and fraud. Apparently, the jury in the fortuneteller's case sent the judge a note containing the following message:
“We have come to a verdict on some charges but are hung on a few other charges"
This note, unlike the other 9, was never read into the record or submitted to the attorneys handling the case. Approximately one hour after the note was sent, the jury sent the 10th and final note which informed the judge that the jury had reached a verdict. Counsel for the convicted defendant, who was sentenced to 5-15 years incarceration, claims that the outcome might have been different had the judge addressed the note. For example, the defense attorney argues that a holdout juror might have been pressured to cave after the court failed to take action on the note.
There is precedent in New York to grant a new trial for failing to disclose a note from the jury. To read prior posts about juror notes and questions go here.