Showing posts with label juries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label juries. Show all posts

19 April 2015

Juror 17


Imagine you’re a juror, the lone holdout in an infamous, deadlocked capital murder case. A person’s life is at stake. While not a legal expert, you have some idea of your rights and obligations: You take the job seriously, keep an open mind, don’t discuss the trial outside the jury room, and avoid news coverage of the case. While abiding by the rules, your privacy is respected by the court, your opinion is sacrosanct, you are protected from pressure outside the jury room, and you don’t have to explain yourself.

Now imagine a lawyer not only takes umbrage at your jury vote, he takes you to task. He singles you out, violates your privacy, digs into your past, reveals your facebook page to the press, all with the intent of forcing you to change your mind or forcing you off the jury altogether.

A Deadly Mother

During the Casey Anthony trial, I followed the testimony closely, listened to courtroom arguments not permitted the jurors, looked at the evidence presented in the courtroom, saw items they did not, listened to the news reports, and followed on-line discussions through the eyes of Velma and her friend Sammy.

From my technical background, I knew the computer forensics was dead wrong and my considerably dated chemistry suggested the prosecution probably erred with their chloroform hypothesis: A spectroscopic blip of element chlorine could have come from either chloroform or easily obtained pool chlorine and the latter was in the family’s shed.

It’s highly probable both the prosecution and defense got the case wrong. Once anger toward Casey is set aside, the evidence makes a convincing case Caylee wasn’t murdered at all, but drowned in the family pool and Casey, already accused of carelessness by her mother, panicked. If that’s true, even if the jury reasoned incorrectly, the panel of twelve got the outcome right.

Jodi Arias on facebook
Jodi Arias on facebook
A Deadly Lover

In contrast, I have not followed the Jodi Arias trial. Unlike the Anthony trial, it wasn’t local and no compelling mystery arose about who committed the murder. I have no reason to disbelieve the verdict, although a small but vocal number of ‘burning bed’ male and female supporters argue Arias didn’t kill out of a jealous rage, but– if she killed at all– justifiably rid the world of a pervert, pedophiliac, and domestic abuser, a theory denied by family, friends, and most importantly, other girlfriends.

Instead, another issue troubles me, that of jury intimidation, or rather intimidation toward one juror, a lone holdout, Juror 17. A backlash welled up from a number of sources: the prosecutor and his fans, death penalty supporters, bloggers sympathetic toward the victim, and the other jurors. Indeed, both the prosecutor and the other eleven asked the judge to replace one juror so they could reach a verdict.

Jurisprudence Without the Prudence

Consider that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: a court being asked to ditch a juror to obtain a unanimous verdict, a kind of litigator do-over.

Jodi Arias on trial
Jodi Arias on trial
The state attorney argued because the woman had seen part of a TV movie about Jodi Arias and since her husband had been convicted of a felony, that she was prejudiced “with an agenda.” But the jury candidate had admitted all this at time of selection. Indeed she appeared to have been quite open.

In his frustration, the prosecutor went several steps further, singling out Juror 17 for investigation and presenting the woman’s facebook page in court because she'd 'liked' ABC News. Arguing this hinted at violating the rules, the state attorney petitioned the court to remove the juror. After the judge refused the prosecutor’s demands, an ‘unknown party’ released the woman’s name and facebook page to the press and public, and shortly after her home address and phone number. Following death threats, Phoenix police are protecting her while investigating.

The details of leaked documents suggest a source within the court system. The court clerk's office insisted it wasn’t responsible. The prosecutor also denied releasing documents and instead attempted to blame the defense (which made no sense at all) and admitted they were contemplating filing charges against the juror… once they figured out a legal angle. Such action would likely have a chilling effect upon jurors who might disagree with a prosecuting attorney in the future.

A Dire Decision

Legal scholars say the juror not only had done nothing wrong, she apparently did everything right: She answered the questionnaire and voir dire accurately, she was earnest and honest, and she refused to be intimidated. The lady said she regularly prayed about her decision and felt harassed by angry fellow jurors, furious that she couldn’t be swayed.

Legal reaction has been mixed to negative: Retroactively investigating a juror toward a stated goal of bumping her from the jury technically isn’t illegal, but violating privacy and attempting to intimidate could well be. Experts agree that in threatening her, prosecutors threaten the entire jury system.

You, the Jury

What is your opinion either generally about the Jodi Arias case or more specifically regarding going after a juror who doesn’t fall in line with a lawyer’s expectations? You be the judge.

18 November 2012

Florida News


Florida postcardFlorida madness continues, not merely in the political arena. It's not the heat, it's the humidity. Read on, MacDuff.



Humans: 352 — Roaches: 1


Man wins roach-eating contest. The rest of the news: won contest, lost life. They said he was the life of the party; and then he wasn't.

Usually kids just carry the ring.

Two weeks before her marriage, 32-year old Destiny Witte had it all… dream wedding planned, three wonderful children, handsome fiancĂ©, sparkling engagement ring, sex with a 14-year-old boy in a public toilet… Oops. (Psst, guys. She's available again.)

Just pay the bill, man!

Orlando police arrested Jeremie Calo not for having sex on a restaurant table but refusing to pay the bill. Meanwhile, off-duty Orlando police drove 115mph to arrive at the scene.

Inspector Javert's kin is alive and well in Sarasota

Sergeant Anthony Frangioni arrested a homeless man for theft of services when the out-of-work man charged his cell phone in a public park. The electrical socket is normally used by picnickers and maintenance. Electricity used? 1¢. Bail? $500. Arresting a homeless man in need? Priceless.

Happens in snowstorms, too.

Dumb and Dumber, two dim-witted teen burglars, got lost, circled back to scene of the crime.

Not cool, man. Didn't you watch Jurassic Park III?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Eric Prokopi, "commercial paleontologist", for smuggling dinosaurs into the US.

Mother-in-Law loses gambit, wins title.

Murderous MiL is back in the news again, winning the web site mom.me's Mother-in-Law from Hell award, although her entire family plotted the kill. These four linked videos indicate if her son-in-law had accepted her invitation to step inside her parlor, he probably wouldn't be alive.

With a twin, you're never alone.

[We’ve been asked by one of the parties to remove her name. Although we quoted police sources, we remind readers that parties are considered innocent until proven otherwise and it is not the intent of SleuthSayers to cause needless distress. For more information, see take-down request.]

Florida Governor Scott's hot phone sex line

You would think a man who committed the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud in history would know the difference between meningitis and men in tight places, but not so. Maybe that's where Benjamin Ashauer went wrong. At least he wasn't like the Seattle perv who told police to wait.

Citizens Grand Jury

In Florida, politics is an ugly blood sport. Larry 'Ku Klux' Klayman (that's spelled with a 'y' and not an 'n' and that's an opinion, not his sobriquet) claims to be a former Justice Department prosecutor. He hit the internet with his "citizens grand jury" (a three-way oxymoron), a "true bill", which seeks to indict President Obama in the alternate universe of Ocala, Florida for bat-shit loony stuff like:
  • treason against the US, Israel, and Arizona
  • treason: nurturing the Arab Spring
  • treason: sending foreign aid to Hamas
  • revealing SEAL Team 6 got bin Laden
  • financing the so-called Ground Zero mosque
  • being financed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard
  • falsifying his birth certificate and place of birth
  • treason: a "black Muslim-in-chief" in "devilish whoredom"
He doesn't much like Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts either.

But hey, this is Florida. Come for the sunshine, stay for the madness.

26 September 2012

Five Red Herrings III


by Robert Lopresti

1. What Not To Wear To A Murder Trial
File under too-weird-for-fiction.  You probably heard that former policeman  Drew Peterson was convicted of killing his wife, but did you hear about the odd thing about the jury?  They dressed  alike.  One day all business suits.  Another day sports Jerseys.  Sometimes red, white, and blue.  Apparently they were having a lot of fun, but does this show the proper attitude when judging a man  who is accused of murdering his wife?

Apparently the feeling during the trial was that no one could ask them about it.  "If they came in wearing T-shirts saying 'Drew's Guilty,' it'd be different," said one attorney.

2. Encounter with Number 6.
I recently met a writer named Stephan Michaels.  Naturally I took a peek at his web site and found a terrific piece about his friendship with one of my favorite actors, Patrick McGoohan.  For any fans of Secret Agent or The Prisoner, I highly recommend it.

As we walked back to our cars, Patrick asked if I thought I’d ever have any real money, and - as I had already confessed to being a bachelor - if I thought I’d ever get married. I answered optimistically to the first and shrugged off the latter. The valet pulled up in his silver BMW and Patrick offered that he and his wife had been married for forty years. “And do you know why it works? Because we don’t agree on a thing!”

3.  Satire by the Illiterate

This has nothing to do with mystery fiction, but if you love great writing, oh my, invest a few minutes. After the Civil War ex-slave Jordon Anderson apparently received a letter from his old master inviting him to come back to the plantation and work for wages.  For those who still maintain that slavery was Not So Bad (such people do exist) his response is a cold dose of reality.  Anderson was illiterate; he dictated lis letter to an abolitionist friend.  Be sure to read the last sentence.

4.  Ghost writing

Courtesy of Sandra Seaman's invaluable blog My Little Corner, here is the web's premium dating service for dead people...  Ooh, spooky.


5.  The Rules

Pixar is one of the most successful animation studios in history. Their rules for successful  storytelling are a lesson for us all.