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Thaddeus Hoffmeister 10 Most Significant Jury Related State and Federal Cases of 2009-2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Thaddeus Hoffmeister 10 Most Significant Jury Related State and Federal Cases of 2009-2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Thaddeus Hoffmeister 10 Most Significant Jury Related State and Federal Cases of

2 United States Supreme Court : Thaler v. Haynes – Peremptory challenges Presley v. Georgia – 6 th Amendment right to public voir dire Berghuis v. Smith – Cross section of jurors Skilling v. United States – Pre-trial publicity Clyma v. Sunoco (10 th Cir.) – Obtaining juror information State Supreme Court : State v. Speer (Ohio) – Jurors with disabilities Stephens Media v. District Court (Nevada) – Disclosure of juror questionnaires State v. Rhone (Washington) – Peremptory challenges Duffy v. Vogel (New York) – Jury polling Russo et al. v. Takata (South Dakota) – Juror conducting research 2

3 Background : Death Penalty case where two different judges presided over the voir dire Defendant was denied Batson challenge to prosecutors peremptory strike Defendant argued that pursuant to Batson and Snyder, judge could not deny Batson challenge because he was unable to personally observe demeanor of juror Trial Court allowed strike – defendant convicted 5 th Circuit overruled pursuant to Snyder and Batson 3

4 5 th Cir. – Judge must reject demeanor-based explanation unless judge personally observed prospective jurors demeanor Batson – requires a judge ruling on an objection to a peremptory challenge to undertake a sensitive inquiry into such circumstantial and direct evidence of intent as may be available. Snyder – Expansion of Batson: Under Batson... an appellate court should find clear error when the record reflects that the trial court was not able to verify the aspect of the juror's demeanor upon which the prosecutor based his or her peremptory challenge. 4

5 Issue : Pursuant to Batson and Snyder, is there clearly established law which requires a judge to personally observe the demeanor of a juror when ruling on a demeanor-based peremptory challenge? Holding: NO No Supreme Court case establishes that a judge must reject a demeanor-based explanation absent first- hand observations of the juror being stricken Reversed and Remanded (per curiam opinion) 5

6 Background : Defendants uncle was asked to leave the court room at the start of voir dire Defendant appealed his conviction arguing his 6 th Amendment right to a public trial was violated as his voir dire was closed to the public 6

7 Issue : Does the defendants 6 th Amendment right to a public trial extend to voir dire? 7

8 Holding : YES Press-Enterprise I and Waller hold that the 6 th Amendment provides for voir dire to be open to the public absent special circumstances Defendant not required to provide court with alternatives to accommodating the public Court did not rule on issue of whether the lower court had an overriding interest in closing voir dire to public Reversed and Remanded 8

9 Dissent : (Thomas and Scalia) Courts conclusion decides by implication an unstated premise – voir dire is part of the public trial Issue not previously decided by Court - Press- Enterprise I and Waller do not explicitly answer the question presented Unwilling to decide issue summarily without benefit of briefing Neither Press-Enterprise I nor Waller places a burden on the courts to act sua sponte suggesting alternatives to closed proceedings – does not definitely express who must suggest alternatives 9

10 Background: In 1993, an all-white jury in Kent County, Michigan convicted Diapolis Smith – an African American – of second degree murder Habeas petition arising from the 6 th Circuit Berghuis examines 6 th Circuits application of Taylor v. Louisiana and Duren v. Missouri 10

11 Issue : Did 6 th Cir. err by concluding Mich. Sup. Ct. failed to apply clearly established law when it rejected Smiths 6 th Amendment fair cross- section claim? Did 6 th Cir. err by applying comparative- disparity test? 11

12 Duren Test 3 prongs: (1) group is distinctive; (2) representation of group is not fair and reasonable in relation to the community ; (3) underrepresentation is due to systematic exclusion Comparative-Disparity Test Court calculates percentage of otherwise eligible jurors from given group who are excluded from jury service Absolute-Disparity Test Compares the number of excluded potential jurors to the overall population 12

13 Venire panel included 60 – 100 people At most 3 were African American Grand Rapids made up 37% of Kent County 85% of Grand Rapids is African American Absolute Disparity 6% (African Americans in jury pool) % (African Americans in jury-eligible population) = disparity of 1.28% African Americans underrepresented by 1.28% Comparative Disparity Absolute Disparity (1.28%) / Eligible jury population (7.28) = 18% African Americans 18% less likely to be on jury service list 13

14 Holding : Michigan Supreme Courts rejection of constitutional challenge to jury panel being unfair cross section of community was a [r]easonable application of clearly established Federal law S. Ct. did not establish particular test to determine if a defendants Constitutional right is violated by a fair cross section of the community Tests are "imperfect" and can be misleading when viewed alone Reversed and Remanded 14

15 Background : Following an employment discrimination dispute between Clyma and Sunoco, Oklahoma Employment Lawyers Association (OELA) submitted Application for Permission to Interview Jurors for Instructional Purposes OELA sought to contact jurors for the purpose of educating members of the bar regarding jury dynamics of employment law cases 15

16 Issue : Whether the First Amendment requires that attorneys who did not participate in the underlying litigation be given access to jurors to assist them in the preparation of an educational program for the use and benefit of members of a professional organization? 16

17 Holding : 10 th Circuit granted a limited writ of mandamus remanding the proceeding to the District Court The District Court denied OELAs request for several reasons: OELAs First Amendment rights are severely outweighed by the privacy rights of jurors The information was being gathered for educational purposes – not news gathering, which carries weighty First Amendment concerns Courts disfavor attorney contact with jurors post trial because of the need to: (1) avoid harassment of jurors, thereby encouraging freedom of discussion in the jury room; (2) reduce the number of meritless post-trial motions; (3) eliminate a significant source of jury tampering; and (4) increase the certainty of verdicts 17

18 Background : Texas federal district court convicted Jeffrey Skilling of conspiracy, securities fraud, making false representations to auditors, and insider trading. Mr. Skilling was the former C.E.O. of Enron Corp. Appeal arising from the 5 th Circuit S. Ct. will determine whether, and to what extent, Skilling was prejudiced by the widespread media attention given to the Enron scandal 18

19 Individual Voir Dire (Attorney and Judge Conducted) --14 page questionnaire sent to 400 prospective jurors; 283 responded and 119 excused based on questionnaire --Not all jurors questioned by Defense Counsel Length --Jeffrey Skilling 5 hours --Timothy McVeigh 18 Days --Zacarias Mousssaoui 14 Days --Dennis Kozlowski (former CEO of Tyco) 7 Days 19

20 Issue : When jury prejudice arises due to widespread media publicity, must the defendant show actual rather than presumed prejudice and may the government rebut the presumption of prejudice? If rebuttable, what is the standard that no juror was actually prejudiced: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt or Preponderance of Evidence? Holding : To be determined 20

21 Background: Speer faced various homicide charges Defense counsel attempted to excuse prospective juror for cause due to a hearing impairment – motion denied Defense counsel proceeded to exercise all four allotted peremptory challenges – did not exercise peremptory challenge on hearing impaired juror Hearing impaired juror was selected Speer was convicted 21

22 Trial: During voir dire, the hearing impaired prospective juror indicated she reads lips At the trial, the 911 call was played for the jury – Hearing-impaired juror read the court reporters real-time transcript of the recording Both prosecution and defense relied upon Defendants voice tone and demeanor as evidence of his guilt/innocence Appellate Court found the trial court abused its discretion by sitting the juror and reversed 22

23 Issue : Did the appellate court correctly find that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Speers challenge of the prospective juror for cause due to her hearing impairment? 23

24 Holding: NO Balance public interest in equal access to jury service against the right of the accused to a fair trial Latter is the predominant concern of the court Right to fair trial requires jurors to understand all evidence presented at trial Hearing impairment alone does not render prospective juror incompetent; however, when accommodations fail to enable a juror to perceive/evaluate evidence, Defendant is deprived of fair trial Reversed. Trial Court opinion correct. 24

25 What to do when this situation arises again: Court must determine, in light of the specific evidence to be presented, whether any reasonable and effective accommodation can be made to enable the juror to serve When no such accommodation exists, the court must excuse the juror for cause 25

26 Dissent : During voir dire, juror was asked about hearing- impairment and informed court she can augment hearing with lip reading; thus, her handicap would not inhibit her ability to perceive and evaluate evidence Accommodations were made: placing juror closer to the witnesses During 911 tape – juror read the court reporters transcript Defense counsel did not raise concern about juror being able to interpret voice inflections, rather, only that juror is unable to hear all of the evidence 26

27 Background : Due to celebrity status of O.J. Simpson and Charles Stewart, court ordered Decorum Order for press Judge promised jurors that questionnaires would not be released Press sought modification to Decorum Order, seeking copies of blank juror questionnaires and those completed of jurors ultimately selected – Dist. Ct. denied request After jury was seated, court allowed access to blank juror questionnaires; following an extraordinary writ, court ultimately permitted access to versions of completed jury questionnaires with redactions 27

28 Issue : Whether juror questionnaires used in jury selection are subject to public disclosure? Issue is an exception to the mootness doctrine applied because the issue was capable of repetition 28

29 Holding : Yes – 1 st Amendment qualifies right by creating a presumption of openness that may be overcome only by an overriding interest based on findings that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest. Standard derived from Press Enterprise II 29

30 Background : Rhone, an African American, was charged with 1 st degree robbery, drug and gun possession, and bail-jumping Of 41 jurors available, two were African American – one was stricken for cause and the other was removed later by the prosecutors peremptory challenge Rhone challenges the constitutionality of the removal of the last African American juror, claiming it is, on its face, discriminatory Trial Court found that prosecutors removal of the last African American venire member did not establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination 30

31 Issue : Did the trial court err by ruling that the prosecutor's removal of the last African-American venire member failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination in violation of Batson ? 31

32 Batson standard: 3-part analysis Defendant must provide evidence of any relevant circumstances that raise an inference that peremptory challenge was used to exclude a venire member from the jury on account of the venire member's race Burden shifts to prosecutor to come forward with a race-neutral explanation for challenging the venire member Court determines whether the defendant has established purposeful discrimination 32

33 Holding : No. Trial court applied correct standard of review under Batson and trial court's determination that Rhone failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination was not clearly erroneous Court rejected Rhones contention that a bright-line rule establishing a prima facie case of discrimination exists whenever a prosecutor peremptorily challenges a venire member who is the last remaining member of a racially cognizable group Rhone failed to raise any circumstances evincing evidence of discrimination – rather he only points out that there are no African American members on the jury Affirmed 33

34 Dissent Court should adopt bright line rule that a defendant establishes a prima facie case of discrimination when, as here, the record shows that the State exercised a peremptory challenge against the sole remaining venire member of the defendant's constitutionally cognizable racial group Benefits of bright-line rule outweigh burden of State explaining non-discriminatory reason for dismissal of juror After Batson, it is unnecessary for a trial court to consider whether jury selection process involves systemic exclusion of venire members based on a discriminatory purpose – a single invidiously discriminatory governmental act is sufficient 34

35 Is this holding problematic? The Justices of the WA Supreme Court were deadlocked, however, the Chief Justice, cast her vote for the majority in a concurring opinion in which she agreed with the dissenting opinion, however, because the new rule only applies prospectively and not retroactively, it does not affect Mr. Rhone 35

36 Background : Following a jury trial in a medical malpractice suit, plaintiff requested (but was denied) that the jury be polled to ascertain whether each juror consented to the verdict as read by the foreperson Each juror signed an 11-page verdict sheet containing 21 interrogatories; the jurys response to the interrogatories had been unanimous, and during the forepersons recitation of the verdict in open court, no juror cried out in protest 36

37 Issue : Is the denial of polling jurors following a jury trial harmless error permitting the verdict to be upheld? 37

38 Holding : No. Right to a jury polling is absolute The request for a jury poll is a necessary condition of a finished or perfected verdict It is not sensible to expect that a juror, absent polling by the judge, would in open court spontaneously pipe up his or her disagreement with an announced verdict Harmless error analysis would be speculative - no court, may claim to know each juror's conscience Reversed – New trial granted 38

39 Dissent : The absolute nature of the right does not imply that the denial of the right can never be harmless error The assertion that, where a request for a jury poll is not honored, the verdict is not finished or perfected is an abstraction – if logically followed through, a jury poll would be required, whether requested, or not The possibility that a verdict would be upset by a jury poll is rare Many errors found harmless where the chance that the error determined the result was significantly greater than it is in this case 39

40 Background : Wrongful death action brought against Takata – seatbelt manufacturer for GM After receiving summons, prospective juror (Flynn) conducted Google search to gather information regarding how many lawsuits had been brought against Takata During voir dire, it was not revealed that Flynn had conducted outside research beforehand – subsequently, he was selected to serve on the jury During deliberations Flynn conveyed his internet findings to 5 other jurors New trial was granted due to juror misconduct 40

41 Questions asked to jurors: Russos counsel asked jurors extensively about their knowledge of the Russos, whether they were acquainted with the family, and how Russos counsel asked Flynn (juror conducting research) if any questions posed to other prospective jurors caused him to want to disclose anything Takatas counsel also questioned the panel extensively about past and current relationships with and knowledge of Takata Okay, before you got here this morning, had anyone ever heard of Takata? (Flynn did not respond) Is there anything that we havent asked you about that you think is important for us to know or important for the Plaintiffs to know about you and the way that youre approaching your job potentially as a juror in this case? 41

42 Issue: Does a remark made by a juror during deliberations based on information that juror knew before jury selection and could have been ascertained by reasonable voir dire constitute extraneous information upon which a trial court can set aside a verdict? Whether a rebuttable presumption of prejudice is created in a civil trial when extraneous information is brought to the jury's attention? Whether a juror's remarks prejudiced the jury's verdict against the Plaintiffs? 42

43 Holding: Court found evidence extrinsic in nature as Flynn sought out information in response to the summons Extrinsic evidence was relevant to facts in issue – whether Takata had notice of defective seatbelts Party seeking to overturn verdict must show it was prejudiced by jury misconduct ( Buisker v. Thuringer ) – proper test Prejudice was possible – though conversation lasted only between 3-5 minutes, information was available to 6 jurors for 90 minutes of deliberations – a typical/normal juror could have been influenced given that statement directly contradicted evidence given at trial Affirmed 43

44 10 Most Significant Jury Related State and Federal Cases of Questions

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