The United States Postal Service will complete its roll out of Informed Delivery in 2017. USPS has scanned the front of all first-class letters for a number of years. Recently, they began making this information available to the recipient in the form of a daily email notification of images and a method to search for prior images going back 7-10 days. The service is free and online registration only takes a couple minutes. As this service is currently designed, it will not have any direct impact into jury service but one can easily see how it could. If the public could search their first-class mail for the previous year, people confronted with a jury scam call would have a mechanism to defend themselves (Admittedly, many people are so intimidated they just comply so this will help a limited number of people.) Judges may also see some prospective jurors appearing for show cause hearings for failure to appear with some form of a digital defense based on this service.
Mutiny During Jury Service
The Court of Appeal for Ontario released an opinion in Her Majesty the Queen v. Zdenek “Dennis” Zvolensky, Nashat Qahwash and Ronald Cyr on April 4, 2017. The Ontario, Canada jury that heard this trial had a “small mutiny” staged by several jurors following closing arguments and instructions during the 14-week murder trial. The trial judge finished charging the jury at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. The jury was sequestered so they were sent back to their hotel and were scheduled to begin deliberations the next morning. After they ate dinner that night, several of the jurors wanted to have a few drinks. A court security officer initially tried to prevent it but a “small mutiny” developed and there was an agreement that the jurors could have two drinks each. Two drinks turned into an all-night drinking event, which then became an issue on appeal. [The opinion is vague on this point but it appears there were two court services officers and the supervision they provided may have been “relaxed.”] The Court of Appeal for Ontario considered this issue along with several others and affirmed the convictions. The court did however note:
A final point relates to supervision of sequestered jurors by court services officers when the jury has concluded its deliberations for the day and has left the courthouse. Unpredictable events happen, for example, a medical emergency involving a juror which requires accompaniment by a court services officer to a medical facility. It seems inadvisable that a single court services officer be left to supervise the remaining eleven jurors. The more prudent course would appear to be to ensure that no fewer than three court services officers be assigned to jurors during overnight accommodations.
You the Jury
Starting on April 7, 2017, Fox News will begin a reality TV series called You the Jury. Announcement for the show states:
The series will feature headline-grabbing, controversial and real-life civil cases tackling topical issues like online trolling and the limits of free speech and the constitutional question of gay rights versus religious freedom. The “biggest jury pool in history” will even decide a wrongful death suit.
The litigants sign an arbitration agreement prior to the filming and agree to abide to a verdict of the television watching public. What is different about this show from the myriad of other “Judge Judy” type shows, is that they are using prominent lawyers to litigate the cases and the viewing audience decides the case.
There are two possible impacts this show may have if it becomes popular. First, some members of the public may get more interested in serving on a real jury. Second, some people serving on a real jury may expect the case to be tried in one hour and have frequent commercial breaks.
The April, 2017 edition Jury Matters was just released. It is a monthly publication by the Civil Jury Project at NYU Law School. The current edition features the following three articles:
Did the Supreme Court Open a Pandora’s Box on Jury Discrimination?
Democracy, Citizenship, and the Pena-Rodriguez Case
The Expressive Function of Juries