(Court of Appeals of New York) - Conviction for manslaughter is reversed where the trial court abused its discretion by prohibiting defense counsel from questioning prospective jurors about their views on involuntary confessions.
(Court of Appeals of New York) This appeal requires us to consider whether skin color of a prospective juror is a cognizable classification upon which a challenge to a prosecutor's use of peremptory strikes under Batson v Kentucky (476 US 79 ) may be based. We recognize the existence of discrimination on the basis of one's skin color, and acknowledge that under this State's Constitution and Civil Rights Law, color is a classification upon which a Batson challenge may be lodged. The courts below held that defendant failed to make a prima facie showing of discrimination when he challenged the prosecutor's use of peremptory strikes to exclude dark-colored women. We find this was error, and therefore reverse...
In Hurst v. Florida, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a state law that permitted the death penalty even when only 10 of 12 jurors were in agreement. Florida, which has put executions on hold since January, was one of three states that did not require unanimous jury recommendations in death-penalty cases.
Below is an excerpt from Rauf v. Delaware which struck down the state's death penalty statute.
In this case, we are asked to address important questions regarding the constitutionality of our state‘s death penalty statute. The Superior Court believed that Hurst reflected an evolution of the law that raised serious questions about the continuing validity of Delaware‘s death penalty statute. Specifically, Hurst prompted the question of whether our death penalty statute sufficiently respects a defendant‘s Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.
Because answering the certified questions requires us to interpret not simply the Sixth Amendment itself, but the complex body of case law interpreting it, we have a diversity of views on exactly why the answers to the questions are what we have found them to be. But that diversity of views is outweighed by the majority‘s collective view that Delaware‘s current death penalty statute violates the Sixth Amendment role of the jury as set forth in Hurst. We also have a shared belief that the importance of the subject to our state and our fellow citizens, reflected in the excellent briefs and arguments of the parties, makes it useful for all the Justices to bring our various perspectives to bear on these difficult questions.
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."
NH Supreme Court says jury nullification statute not really a jury nullification statute.
Last week, the NH Supreme Court in State v. Rich Paul had the opportunity to interpret the state's jury nullification law (RSA 519:23) which was passed in 2012 and reads as follows:
“In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge
the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.”
According to the NH Supreme Court, RSA 519:23 allows the defendant “to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.” However, the NH Supreme Court went on to opine that the statute does not mean that the defendant can inform the jury that it has the right to judge the law or the right to ignore the law.
The NH Supreme Court wrote:
although RSA 519:23-a requires the trial court to allow the defendant “to inform the jury of its right
to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy,” it does not
require the court to allow the defendant to inform the jury that it has the right to judge the law or
the right to ignore the law. In other words, it is not a jury nullification statute. Further, it is of no
moment that the court’s instructions may have contravened or undermined the defendant’s jury
nullification argument because the statute gave the defendant no right to make such an argument.
This case was brought by the appellant Rich Paul who was convicted of three counts of the sale of an ounce or more of marijuana, one count of possession with intent to distribute an ounce or more of marijuana, and one count of the sale of substance represented to be LSD. Paul appealed his conviction arguing that the trial court failed to comply with RSA 519:23 by declining to give the jury nullification instruction he requested and by giving other jury instructions that contravened his "jury nullification defense."