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I was perusing the CCA opinions, and came across this gem of a jury note:
Anyone else have any favorite notes from the jury you want to share? I'm sure we've all heard of the "Which is more, 99 years or life?" note.
[This message was edited by WHM on 11-13-08 at .]
"Is testimony considered evidence?". Scary.
"What's the difference between life and 99 years?" Had that one more than once.
Years ago, in a misdemeanor trial the jury sent out a note during guilt/innocence: "Can we go ahead and assess punishment now, or do we just find him guilty?"
In a recent capital murder non-death penalty trial, I knew things were going well when about 5:30 p.m. the jury sent out a note requesting "snacks" and didn't mention supper, indicating they weren't going to be too much longer.
A number of years ago, before I prosecuted, I was involved in an insurance defense case where a worker was seriously injured. The jury sent out a note asking: "Is there any limit to punitive damages?" Our client, the defendant company insisted they did not want to settle. Within 20 minutes the jury came back -- NO LIABILITY, no damages, nada. We asked the jury foreman about the note, and he said he "had just always wanted to know the answer to that question."
On a 25-Life DWI I had a jury send a note out at punishment that said, "If we're giving him life can we fine him too?" If kind of ruined the suspense for when they came back with a life sentence shortly thereafter.
Not a favorite but memorable. Aggravated Kidnapping/Sexual Assault of 64 yo woman who was terrified of testifying and immediately after testifying told me "thank God I'll never have to do that again." Jury is out 20 minuets; The unsigned note "can we change foreperson?" While researching the answer over about 45 minuets, I convince myself the jury is hung - 11 guilty to 1(the foreperson) not guilty. The Court responds "only if the current foreperson is unable or unwilling to serve as foreperson." Within 2 minuets they have a verdict - Guilty. The foreperson later explains that a verdict was reached immediately after selecting the foreperson, but another juror wanted to announce the verdict from the jury box like they had seen on TV.
"What does unanimous mean?"
I can't remember the exact wording but it was something like.
"Do we have to be unanimous in acquittal on the charged offense before we consider the lesser included?"
(Defendant was habitualized and faced 25-99 or life either way. They convicted on the lesser included and gave him 75 years.)
At the punishment phase of a case where stepdad had forcibly raped and impregnated his stepdaughter: "Can we assess a cash award to the victim and her family?" We knew they were really mad.
At the guilt phase in my continuous sexual abuse trial where there were a lot of hostile family members in the courtroom: "The jury has reached a verdict, but has some concerns about the jury's security when we announce the verdict. What measures will be taken to insure the safety of the jury?" We knew it would be good news (to us, not to the defendant's family) then.
I have had and seen on numerous occastions my favorite note, a slight variation on yours, John:
"Which is more, 99 years or life".
I have heard this particular commication referred to as "THE Note" in several jurisdictions where I have practiced, such as when a deliberating jury sends a note and someone asks: "Was it THE Note?"
[QUOTE]Originally posted by jane starnes:
At the punishment phase of a case where stepdad had forcibly raped and impregnated his stepdaughter: "Can we assess a cash award to the victim and her family?" We knew they were really mad.[QUOTE]
You don't get that note too often, Jane. You and your office must have really showed the truth to the jury in a professional fashion.
I don't remember the wording of the note, but they jury sent it out because I, like the rookie I was, didn't offer the blackboard diagram into evidence. The jury didn't get it in the deliberation room, and they needed it.
When they were brought out to hear the judge's answer to the question, they could care less -- they all stared intently at the blackboard in an effort to memorize its details before they were ushered back into their room!
After being in the jury room for about 45 minutes after closing arguments, something to the effect of: "Can we begin deliberating now?"
My buddy told me about a note in Navarro County once during the sentencing phase of an aggravated sexual assault of a child that said, "If the defendant dies in prison, does his family have to pay the fine?" That sort of a note does not bode well for the defendant ...
Another favorite is from one of Bill Turner's early trials. The note inquired "what is the difference between life and 99 years." Feeling fairly confident with that kind of note, Bill was shocked when the jury returned a verdict of 10 years with probation. When questioning the jury about why they sent out that note, one juror replied, "oh, we were just curious about the difference."
In my last Intoxication Manslaughter trial the jury sent out the following note concerning the Deadly Weapon Issue:
"If the Defendant was found Guilty of Intoxication Manslaughter, why is it necessary to determine if the car was a deadly weapon? It seems obvious...How can this be questionable?"
After about three hours - "When is the judge going to appoint the foreman so we can begin deliberations?"
Once, after the jury asked "THE" question, the jury returned a life sentence on a defendant who stole a $69 pantsuit for his wife for Easter (habitual thief and habitual felon). The defendant just looked at the jury and said, Life?!?!?! Well GODDAMN!"
My favorite jury note was --- "May we hear the prosecutor's final argument again?"
Now, before some of you jump to the conclusion that I put some of the jurors to sleep with a boring and pointless argument, I want you to know that there was no snoring or closed eyes while I was speaking. In fact, when I saw the note I was very happy, and even happier when the jury gave me the result I had requested.
While a defense attorney in an aggravated robbery case, I was waiting with the D.A. and judge and the jury sent this question at the guilt-innocence phase:
"The charge says, 'If you find beyond a reasonable doubt that John Smith did commit the offense of aggravated robbery. . . .' Has this been proven?"
Not the brightests crayons in the box.
We tried a correctional officer for bringing a pound or so of marijuana into a prison unit - he was a local fellow and we were the outsiders. He had an edge up on us carpetbaggers. Jury's note: "How can we give the defendant the least possible punishment and make sure it's probated?"
Wonder why they just didn't go ahead and take up a collection to erect a statue in his honor....
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