Attorneys for Google say they have no objection to a proposed ban prohibiting them from researching jurors on the Internet so long as the ban applies to all parties. Google also noted that the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility in its 2014 Formal Opinion 466 entitled Lawyer Reviewing Jurors' Internet Presence has determined that "passive review of a juror's public presence on the Internet is ethically permissible." For the backstory on this case go here.
As some are aware, six Baltimore police officers are facing criminal charges in the death of Freddy Gray.The first trial, which involved Officer William Porter, resulted in a mistrial. The judge handling the case encouraged the dismissed jurors to avoid talking about the case publicly. Not surprisingly, some are bothered by the actions of the trial judge which raise First Amendment concerns. To read an informative op-ed about why jurors should be allowed to share their experiences with others go here.
Here is a link to a Motion in Limine filed by an attorney representing one of the police officers charged in the Freddy Gray case. For those interested in learning more about the jury issues that arise in high profile cases like Freddy Gray, I suggest giving this 8-page motion a quick once over.
Among other things, the defense counsel has requested that the jurors be told in both "preliminary instructions, and during final instructions, that the juror names will never be revealed to the public, nor the media, and that they may remain entirely anonymous should they choose to do so." The motion also requests that the judge sequester all jurors. Absent sequestration, the motion requests that "jurors congregate at a third party location, and be driven to the courthouse by security officers."
I will be on WBAL this Sunday at 6:00 am to talk about the motion and other jury related issues involving the Freddy Gray Case.
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.
This week the MA Supreme Judicial Court determined that the names of jurors must be made public at the completion of trial. Specifically, the high court ruled in Commonwealth v. Fujita that "a list of the names of jurors empaneled in any criminal case be included in the court file of the case, no later than at the completion of the trial."
In Fujita, a teenager was convicted of murdering his girlfriend. The press wanted the names of the jurors in the case so that they could talk to them about the trial. The court said no and instead informed the press that the judge would write the jurors and enquire if they were interested in being contacted by the media. Only two jurors said "yes."
In overruling the trial judge, the state high court found that "[o]nly on a judicial finding of good cause, which may include a risk of harm to the jurors or the integrity of their service, may such a list be withheld." Among other things, this case is a good read because it talks about the importance of having an open and transparent jury system. The opinion also mentions the prosecution of the British soldiers for the Boston Massacre and how their trial was "open to the public, and the identities of the jurors who acquitted the soldiers were known to the community."
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.
[w]hether Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) permits a party moving for a new trial based on juror dishonest during voir dire to introduce juror testimony about statements made during deliberations that tend to show the alleged dishonesty?
This case arose out of a motor vehicle accident in which a motorcyclists collided with a truck. The motorcyclist lost his leg and then subsequently brought a negligence action against the truck driver. The jury found in favor of the truck driver.
Shortly after the trial, a juror approached plaintiff's counsel and informed him that one juror, the forewoman, refused to decide the case on the evidence submitted. This juror further informed plaintiff's counsel that the forewoman told other jurors during deliberations that her daughter had been at fault in a fatal automobile accident and that had she been sued it would have "ruined her life."
Plaintiff's counsel had the juror complete a sworn affidavit in which he detailed the actions of the forewoman. However, the trial court, citing 606(b), refused to admit the affidavit into evidence. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.
Generally speaking, FRE 606(b), the juror anti-impeachment rule, prohibits the introduction of evidence concerning juror deliberations. FRE 606(b), is in place to: (1) provide verdict finality; (2) encourage jurors to freely express themselves during deliberations; and (3) reduce the amount of post-trial hounding jurors receive from attorneys. The Courts of Appeal, however, have not been uniform in their application of FRE 606(b) which is why this case has been granted cert. Hopefully, the SCT can provide the lower courts better guidance on the application of FRE 606(b).