What happens if a juror is (later) caught lying during jury selection?

This question has come before the U.S. Supreme Court. Previous rulings have made clear that one can’t (generally) use post-trial claims about what happened during deliberation to overturn verdicts, lest it chill the deliberations themselves. After all, the point of private jury deliberations is to keep them…private.

But what if during deliberation one of the jurors said something that made it plan that she lied during the voir dire period–that pre-trial phase where attorneys question the jurors to detect any undue bias?

That’s the question before the court, and the New York Times has a great article by their regular Supreme Court (and jury) reporter, Adam Liptak. In defense of juror privacy, Liptak points to words from former justice Sandra Day O’Connor:

“A barrage of post-verdict scrutiny of juror conduct,” she wrote, would undermine candid discussions during deliberations. It would make it harder for jurors to take unpopular positions. It could subject former jurors to harassment. It could undermine the finality of verdicts, allowing challenges months or years later.

Yet in this case, Liptak reaches this conclusion:

It is hard to reconcile the two versions of what went on in a South Dakota jury room years ago. But the court system has ways of establishing the truth. Mr. Titus, Ms. Whipple and the other jurors could be called back to court and questioned under oath.

How does he reach that conclusion? You’ll have to read the article to find out.

Posted in Deliberation on juries, Voir dire and jury selection | Leave a comment

The jury system comes to Argentina

The jury system is blossoming in Argentina. An article from May’s Buenos Aires Herald gives one a sense for how juries are being used. In most respects, the system being adopted resembles that being used in the U.S. Consider, for instance, this bit about voir dire (jury selection):

Before each case, 48 potential jurors will be called and they will hold a meeting with the parties, including the judge, the prosecutor and the defence lawyers. They will be asked several questions to try to determine whether they are impartial or if they are directly or indirectly linked to the case. Then only twelve will be selected to sit on the jury. Members of the government and of security forces or those who work for prisons are forbidden from taking part. Lawyers and public notaries are also exempt, as is anyone convicted of an intentional crime or anyone indicted for a criminal offence. The exemptions also apply to religious and political leaders.

Note that the article has one goof; unanimity is required for juries in capital cases. That correction comes from Andres Harfuch, who has championed the jury system in Argentina.

Most of the first-hand accounts thus far are in Spanish. Reading GoogleTranslate versions thereof get the gist across, however. One area of law where juries have arrived concerns taxes. A recent article on special jury trials from the Ministerio Publico Fiscal suggested that jurors will need (again, translated) “A simpler language, greater use of images, another form of questioning, much attention in the instructions.” The bottom line is that the jury constitutes a new and legitimate form of public authority in Argentina. In the mangled translation, that comes out as “a certainty: what is resolved represents the will of the people.” Sounds almost like haiku.

 

 

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New research shows when civil juries have maximum civic impact

Andrew Ferguson has posted a blog note about research that came out of the Jury and Democracy Project. This latest piece, spearheaded by Cornell University scholar Valerie Hans and University of Washington doctoral student Traci Feller adds to our 2010 book (The Jury & Democracy) an important reanalysis showing the circumstances under which civil juries can affect jurors’ future likelihood of voting. Turns out, it hinges on the size, setting, and structure of the jury, with the greatest civic benefit coming from larger juries using a unanimity rule to resolve cases involving more compelling civil charges.

See the full story at the Huffington Post, or for those inclined to see the details, the complete article is available pre-publication at the Social Science Research Network.

 

 

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Who’s afraid of older jurors?

Turns out it’s the Brits. Well, they’re not as spooked by them as they used to be. Currently, there is a limit that jurors cannot be over 70 years old, but that limit is rising to 75. As reported in the Daily Mirror, the Justice Secretary Chris Graying explained that

“Jury service is, and remains, a cornerstone of the British justice system laid down in the Magna Carta almost 800 years ago. Every year, thousands of people give their time to take part in this vital function…Our society is changing and it is essential that the criminal justice system moves with the times. This is about harnessing the knowledge and life experiences of a group of people who can offer significant benefits to the court process.”

Well, it’s good to “keep up with the times,” but what aspect of our world makes it necessary to deny a 76 year-old the right to serve on a jury? We have all met people that age or higher who we would sooner recommend for jury service than their juniors, whether 18 or 48.

An arbitrary upper age limit seems contrary to the juror’s right to serve, something my co-authors and I celebrated in the book The Jury & Democracy. Our main finding was that service gives jurors a civic boost by increasing various forms of political and community engagement, so any group that gets denied that opportunity loses out on the chance to drink that elixir.Such bans are unheard of in the U.S., but before Americans get too smug, a colleague (thanks, Valerie Hans!) pointed out that many states offer exemptions to seniors. In Texas, for instance, anyone 70 or older can opt to be crossed off the jury rolls for the rest of their life. It’s not the same as a ban, but it is at least a nudge, or even enticement, to opt out of the jury system.
Bottom line: Don’t pass up a chance to serve on a jury, lest you age-out of the system.

Posted in Juries around the world, Jury structure and reform, Social/political impact of juries, Summoning juries | Leave a comment

More worries about the shrinking civil jury

This blog, and many other sources, have noted the low percentage of civil (and criminal) trials that go to a jury. A recent news article in the Grand Rapids Business Journal offers a somewhat different take than most have on the issue. In this view, the problem may be the massive paperwork required for many modern civil trials. Quoting the President of the West Michigan Chapter of the Federal Bar Association,

“The trial has been under siege … for a lot of different reasons that have worked together. One of the main reasons, in my opinion, is technology. The huge expanse of technology and information out there has, in a lot of ways, bogged down the ability to prosecute and present the case.”

The article noted,

40 or even 30 years ago, a trial typically would include only a handful of documents — a stack an inch thick would be considered a lot of documents. But today, lawyers are typically dealing with hundreds or thousands of documents for each case, which are likely to include emails and even text messages.

So the theory goes, this pushes attorneys into avoidance mode–hoping to settle the case rather than crawling through a tedious discovery, then dragging all those documents back through a lengthy jury trial.

Remedies discussed in the article include limits on the documents used in trial, accelerating the pace of discovery, and more. Read on to get more ideas from the article, which happily acknowledges the civic import of the civil jury.

Posted in Conducting trials, Social/political impact of juries | Leave a comment

An atypical psychological impact of jury duty

“Dear Prudence,” an advice column in Slate, this week responded to the story of a juror whose experience reviewing evidence in a sexual assault case left the juror with memories that stunted her ability to fantasize. The juror had previously been aroused principally by relatively aggressive sexual behavior, but after witnessing the evidence of a sexual assault, the juror lost her appetite.

Prudence offered this advice to the juror:

As humans we have a vast imaginative capacity, and the movies we create in our heads are private and personal works of art. You don’t have to replace your go-to fantasy. Delight in the fact that you are a woman who has a rich, complex, and satisfying erotic life.

That’s reassuring, perhaps, but the case points out two things often overlooked about jury service. First, reviewing evidence in difficult cases can leave a mark on jurors’ memories that last weeks, years, or even a lifetime, for better or worse. Second, the experience of jury duty can sometimes expose jurors to realities that they otherwise successfully avoid, or see only through fiction and dramatizations.

Though this is an admittedly unusual juror account of the service experience, it’s another reminder of the sheer range of impacts jury duty has on people every day.

Posted in Conducting trials, Social/political impact of juries | 1 Comment

Demystifying jury duty

It’s not often that a newspaper runs a story that debunks common misconceptions about jury duty, so I single out a good example of such reporting that comes from the Richmond Register. The author makes jury duty sound much less intimidating than people imagine it to be, but she devotes the most attention to telling prospective jurors that they are not exempt even if they think they are.

The last detail is my favorite, and I excerpt it here:

Your boss can go to jail if he threatens and/or fires you over having to serve jury duty.

TRUE …For example, a person who works at night cannot still be required to pull a night shift even while serving on a jury during the day…Under Kentucky law, if an employer threatens employees with termination or actually fires them because they are absent for jury duty, the workers can file a civil lawsuit for lost wages against the employer…Also, if an employee is fired for serving on a jury, the employer can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $250 (up to $5,000 for corporations) and/or a jail sentence not exceeding 90 days.

Posted in Summoning juries, Verdicts juries reach, Voir dire and jury selection | Leave a comment