by Rimma Teper, Michael Inzlicht, Elizabeth Page-Gould
Emotions are important in decision-making and the intensity of the felt emotion plays an important role in sorting out ethical dilemmas found in your case narrative. With responses from trial consultants.
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The Vermont Supreme Court, in State v. Abdi, overturned the sexual assault conviction of Mr. Ali Abdi because one of the jurors who decided his case went on the Internet to research Somali Bantus. Both the defendant and the victim are Somali Bantus.
The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that a Somali Bantu immigrant convicted of sexual assault on a child deserves a new trial because a juror might have been influenced by information about Somali culture he found on the Internet.
The case, the five justices ruled in a unanimous opinion, raises serious questions about jury conduct in an age when information is obtainable so easily online.
Justices noted "the increasing problem of jurors consulting the internet for outside information that this case all too clearly illustrates," read a passage of the opinion, written by Associate Justice Denise Johnson. "Although Vermont trial courts routinely admonish jurors not to consult outside sources, it may well be time to consider a stronger and more technology-specific admonition. ...
"We can not ignore the realities of our 'information age,' where the internet and other technologies have made information more widely and immediately accessible than ever before," the opinion continued...to continue reading go here.
This blog has repeatedly discussed how the Digital Age has made it easier for jurors to conduct research about the case and discuss it with others. However, another concern, rarely addressed is the impact of the Digital Age on a juror's ability to stay focused on the trial and witness testimony. The article below discusses how one juror was dismissed from a sexual assualt case because he constantly kept checking his phone.
The middle-aged juror, a grain trader by day, was faced with what he called an emergency at work: a train with an unpaid-for load of grain was on the fast track to Mexico.
If he didn't get his employees to stop it before the border, he later said, his company might be out $5.3 million, the value of the grain.
At the same time, the juror was supposed to be weighing every word of a witness in a case of huge importance: a first-degree sexual assault trial of a young man accused of brutalizing a young woman.
The juror had heard Douglas County District Judge James Gleason admonish jurors to give each witness their undivided attention. The judge even specifically instructed jurors to not check their phones or email during court.
But the juror's smartphone was lighting up — and he made a not-so-smart choice. He checked the phone throughout a nurse's testimony about the woman's extensive injuries.
A defense attorney, then a prosecutor, then a law clerk, then a court reporter, then a fellow juror saw him with his phone by his thigh and his head cocked in the familiar down-and-to-the-side phone mode.
With that, the juror earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first Douglas County juror to be kicked off a jury for what has become a national epidemic: Deliberating while distracted...to continue reading go here.
A federal judge denied a retrial on Tuesday for longtime Illinois powerbroker William Cellini, rejecting defense arguments that the 77-year-old didn't get a fair trial because a juror supposedly lied about her criminal past during jury selection
Late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Zagel put an end — for now — to the latest flap over whether a juror’s failure to disclose her criminal background had unfairly tainted a high-profile federal conviction.But Zagel’s finding that Illinois Republican powerhouse William Cellini is not entitled to a new trial won’t resolve the underlying problem of how far the courts should go in investigating jurors and how to avoid ending up in the same pickle again.
Unfortunately, it has become rather standard procedure to use anonymous juries in terrorism trials. Interestingly, the rational provided by the trial judge in the Hutaree militia trial for using an anonymous jury did not follow the usual script. Here, the trial judge said that juror privacy, not juror safety, was the reason for anonymous jurors.
The jurors who hear the case will remain anonymous, following an order by U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts, who expressed concerns about jurors' privacy rights.
"These jurors will be thrust into the eye of a storm simply because they have honored our request to perform this high civic duty," Roberts wrote in her order Friday. "The court wants to be clear that this decision ... is not based at all on the belief that defendants present a danger to potential jurors."
Although anonymous juries first started in the late 1970s to ensure juror safety, they are used increasingly to safeguard juror privacy.
Noted jury expert professor Valerie Hans has recently written a thought provoking piece entitled Jury Representativeness: It's No Joke in the State of New York. The piece examines two New York studies that analyzed jury representation in the state. While the studies did not reveal any glaring discrepancies between census data and who actually sat on juries, they did show that certain minorities are underrepresented in the jury pool. Professor Hans goes on to discuss potential solutions to this inequity e.g., she suggests possibly applying social science techniques to jury selection.
It would be interesting to hear from others who have ideas on how to make the jury more representative.