Randomly Selecting Alternate Jurors
The July/August 2018 edition of the Utah Bar Journal has an excellent article titled Should Alternate Jurors be Selected in a Statistically Fair, Random Method? by Blake P. Hills, Esq. and Brian C. Hills, Esq. The article notes that the current practice in Utah for civil and criminal trials is that the order in which jurors are called designates which jurors will be the alternates. The authors note that there is good reason for not informing alternates of their status prior to that trial as they may have the tendency to not pay close attention to the trial. However, they state that when the alternates are released just prior to deliberations, they often are noticeably upset that they put their life on hold to hear a trial and listened diligently when the likelihood they would deliberate was remote.
The authors propose that the Utah practice should be changed. The jury should be informed from the beginning that if there are more jurors left at the end of the trial than are required to deliberate, the clerk will randomly select the jurors who will deliberate and hopefully reach a verdict. The remaining jurors would be the “alternates.” The authors note that Arizona currently uses this method. They argue that this approach would encourage every juror to attentively hear the evidence while providing a more reasonable explanation for jurors who are released as alternates. They further argue that this approach will improve juror satisfaction and in the long run, may make jury service more appealing to the public.
This suggested approach to managing alternative jurors makes a lot of sense and should be considered by all states not currently using this process. The article starts on page 32 of the link above.
G. Thomas Munsterman Award
The Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts is accepting nominations for the G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation. The award is named for G. Thomas Munsterman, founder and former director of the Center for Jury Studies and an internationally renowned innovator in jury systems and research. First presented in 2008, the award was established to recognize states, local courts, individuals, or other organizations that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations, or practices in one of the following categories:
• state or local statutes, rules, or other formal changes
• jury management or technology
• in-court improvements
• other improvements or innovations
Nominations for the Munsterman Award are currently being accepted through August 17, 2018.
Nomination letters should be submitted to:
Email: Greg Hurley
NCSC Center for Jury Studies
Attn: Greg Hurley
300 Newport Avenue
Williamsburg, VA 23185
Ceremonial Dagger Query
One of our regular readers is interested to hear if any jury or court administrators have encountered an Amritdhari Sikh, otherwise known as an initiated Sikh, in relation to jury service.
For those unaware, Amritdhari Sikhs have five unbreakable tenets of faith, one of which is the carrying of a kirpan, a small ceremonial dagger, on their person at all times.
The court security policies of the reader prohibit the carrying of 'dangerous items' on court premises. Recently an Amritdhari Sikh was summoned for jury service and upon enquiring about bringing a kirpan onto court premises, was informed he could not. The gentleman was distressed at being made to choose between completing his civic duty (service to community being an important teaching in Sikhism) and adhering to his faith.
The reader is currently looking at how this impacts a jury's ability to be a proper representation of the community, as well as issues around potential discrimination. They are interested to hear if there are other courts which have encountered similar circumstances, and if so, how they approached and handled the situation. Your feedback would be highly appreciated and informative, both in instances where policies or guidelines were changed in response, as well as those which resulted in no change to existing practices after considering the issue.
If your court has experienced this issue before and you would be willing to speak to this reader about how your court responded to it, please send an email to Greg Hurley at firstname.lastname@example.org and your email will forwarded.
Juror Appreciation Month in North Carolina
The North Carolina Judicial Branch issued the following press release on July 2, 2018:
Chief Justice Mark Martin Proclaims July 2018 as Juror Appreciation Month
RALEIGH — Chief Justice Mark Martin has proclaimed the month of July as Juror Appreciation Month in the state of North Carolina. A ceremonial proclamation signed by Chief Justice Martin states that the purpose of Juror Appreciation Month is “to recognize the importance of jury service to the community.”
“We set aside this time each year to thank and recognize the thousands of North Carolinians who perform this important service to our courts,” said Chief Justice Martin. “Their active role in our system of justice makes it possible for the Judicial Branch to carry out its important mission of administering justice for all."
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 24 of the North Carolina Constitution give a person charged with a crime the right to a trial by a jury. Most North Carolina citizens usually come into contact with the Judicial Branch through jury service. Juror Appreciation Month is an opportunity to educate the public and to help raise awareness of the importance of jury service, while extending a small token of thanks to the many citizens who devote their time to the Judicial Branch and to our system of justice.
While some North Carolina judicial districts have held juror appreciation activities in the past, Juror Appreciation Month encourages courts across the state to celebrate. Participation in Juror Appreciation Month is voluntary, and some judicial districts will host their own events in support of the Chief Justice’s proclamation.
Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2
PBS has released an hour long documentary titled Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2. It is a strong statement as to the emotional repercussions that jury service can have on people. The documentary is available free online through August 14, 2018 and is worth watching. The description of the documentary states the following:
For 20 years, Lindy has lived with an unbearable feeling of guilt. Committed to fulfilling her civic duty, Lindy sat with 11 other people on a jury that handed down the death penalty to a Mississippi man convicted of a double homicide. An overwhelming feeling of regret compels Lindy to track down her fellow jurors. A conservative, religious woman from the South, she manages to tackle this topic with humor, an open mind and sincere curiosity.