A juror hearing the death penalty case of James Holmes came to court wearing a Mettalica t-shirt that depicted a person in an electric chair. When questioned by the judge about the t-shirt the alternate juror said he wore it because he did not think that he would actually be in the courtroom that day. The juror also said that he was not trying to send a message with the t-shirt but instead wore it because he liked Mettalica.
SCT Grants Cert. in Another Batson Case: Foster v. Humphrey
The issue in Foster v. Humphrey, a death penalty case involving a Black defendant, a White victim and an all-White jury is whether the Georgia courts erred in failing to recognize race discrimination under Batson v. Kentucky in the extraordinary circumstances of this death penalty case. The case will be argued in the fall.
The facts here seem to favor Foster; however, one can never be sure with these cases.
--Prosecutors highlighted the name of each prospective Black juror in green (see above)
--Black jurors referenced as "B#1," "B#2," and "B#3"
--Prosecutor's investigator ranked each Black juror against the other Black jurors
--All Black jurors were struck by the prosecution
--Prosecutor at the close of trial requested a death verdict from the jury to “deter other people out there in the projects."
Below is an interesting article by Adam Liptak. In the article, Liptak examines the practice of judges overriding the death penalty decisions of jurors. The article also discusses the possibility that the SCT may examine this practice sometime this term by granting cert to Scott v. Alabama, No. 14-8189, and Lockhart v. Alabama, No. 14-8194. To read prior posts on this topic go here.
A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the trial of Dzhokar Tsarnaev can be held in Boston. Defense attorneys for Tsarnaev had requested a change of venue arguing that because of extensive pre-trial publicity about the Boston Marathon bombing Tsarnaev could not get a fair trial in Boston. To read the opinion by the First Circuit go here. The question of whether Tsarnaev's trial should be moved has also been debated on the Op-Ed page of the NY Times.
Today, the federal judge in the Boston Marathon bombing trial denied the third request by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to have his trial moved (for background information on prior motions to change venue go here). In denying this third request for a change of venue, the federal judge stated,
“Contrary to the defendant’s assertions, the voir dire process is successfully identifying potential jurors who are capable of serving as fair and impartial jurors in this case...In light of that ongoing experience, the third motion to change venue has even less, not more, merit than the prior ones.”
The decision to keep Tasrnaev's trial in Boston has caught the interest of several folks and has even led to a debate in the NY Times Opinion Page.
It should come as no surprise that it will take some time to find 24 (12 alternatives the most I have ever seen) impartial jurors for the James Holmes death penalty trial. The article below highlights the myriad of excuses that prospective jurors will use to avoid serving on this trial. Full disclosure, I am quoted in the article.