A Juror Who Knew the Victim
The Court of Appeals, Sixth Appellate District of Texas at Texarkana rendered an opinion in Taylor v. State on July 31, 2018. Mr. Taylor was charged with sexual offenses relating to a child. He was convicted following a jury trial. During voir dire, the prosecution and the defense referred to the victim by a pseudonym. After the jury was seated and sworn, juror Twyla Davis realized that she knew the victim and she informed the court promptly. The appeals court stated that Davis was the victim’s “third grade teacher, that Cindy [the victim] remained in Davis’ classroom for one-half of each school day in the third grade, and that Cindy was currently in the eighth grade.” Davis was individually questioned about her relationship with the victim and she indicated that she could be fair to both parties. The defendant moved the court to remove juror Davis and replace her with an alternate. The trial court declined to do so.
The Court of Appeals, Sixth Appellate District of Texas cited to a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals case stating that when “the jury had been sworn and the trial had begun, the appellant’s only remedy was a mistrial; defense counsel could not have moved to challenge the juror for cause or to peremptorily strike the juror.” As the defense at trial had not moved for a mistrial, the appeals court indicated that the defendant did not demonstrate error. The convictions were therefore affirmed. The appeals court was very critical of the of the way the petition for appeal was drafted.
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
The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued an opinion in U.S. v. Wilcher. Mr. Wicher was convicted of firearms related charges. The interesting aspect of this case is that it includes an issue regarding the polling of the jury following the delivery of their verdict. Jury polling issues are very rare.
After the original appeal was filed with the 11th Circuit, the defendant himself noticed an oddity in the transcript. The transcript indicated that Juror #7’s answer to whether the verdict delivered was his verdict was “no.” All of the other jurors had responded affirmatively. The court reporter had a backup tape recording of the proceeding. When the parties reviewed it, it was clear that Juror #7 had clearly said “yes” but Juror #6 gave “a muddled answer, which could be a “no”, or could be indecipherable.” To cure the problem, the court held an evidentiary hearing. Both Jurors #6 and #7 testified that they had answered “yes” and the Assistant U.S. Attorney that tried the case also testified that he hear every juror say “yes”. The trial judge ordered that the transcript be corrected and the 11th Circuit affirmed the convictions.
Tucson.com reported on July 25, 2018 that U.S. District Judge David Bury fined 14 jurors $300 each for their repeated failure to respond to jury summonses.
Courtney A. Kurinec and Charles A. Weaver III, both from the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience at Baylor University published a paper titled Do Memory-Focused Jury Instructions Moderate the Influence of Eyewitness Word Choice in the most recent edition of Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice. It addresses one aspect of how jurors evaluate eyewitness testimony and an attempt to mitigate against this issue. As inaccurate eyewitness testimony has been identified as a leading cause of wrongful convictions, tools that help jurors better evaluate it are obviously important. The abstract to the article states:
Some ways of describing an eyewitness event are likely to be more effective than others. We investigated how one such factor - linguistic concreteness - influenced juror decision making. Jurors who received testimony with more concrete language (e.g., he was twitching nervously versus a nervous, twitchy guy) were more likely to vote guilty and rate the eyewitness as credible (Study 1). This effect was mitigated when jurors received additional information prior to rendering a verdict; specifically, memory-focused jury instructions made jurors less likely to vote guilty or find the eyewitness credible (Study 2). Overall, these results suggest concrete language is more persuasive to jurors, but can be overcome by the presentation of additional information, particularly that which increases skepticism of eyewitness evidence.
A Sad Event
Trinidad and Tabago Newsday reported on July 24, 2018 that when a jury was asked to return to the courtroom following a break in the trial, one juror did not respond. The occurrence happened in the San Fernando High Court in Trinidad and Tabago. A clerk tried to get the juror to respond but that was unsuccessful. He was transported to the hospital where it was determined he had a massive stroke. However, the trial was able to go on with an alternate