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CNN.com Law article
Attorney meets the 'jury pool from hell'
Sex, drugs and bias -- prospective jurors acknowledge all
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) -- Defense attorney Leslie Ballin called it the "jury pool from hell."
The group of prospective jurors was summoned to listen to a case of Tennessee trailer park violence.
Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite."
When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed.
Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth."
Another prospect volunteered he probably should not be on the jury: "In my neighborhood, everyone knows that if you get Mr. Ballin (as your lawyer), you're probably guilty." He was not chosen.
The case involved a woman accused of hitting her brother's girlfriend in the face with a brick. Ballin's client was found not guilty.
Can anyone beat that?
I once had a panel that was so bad, that I had to leave a guy on the panel who had successfuly completed several years of deferred adjudication for 2nd deg. POM. The constable who was helping me pick my jurors, and who knew everyone in the county, was quite certain that the other 10 people he wanted to strike were even worse than the drug dealer. I lost that case.
I often find panelists who are so poorly educated that they cannot comprehend the concept of an hypothetical question. Q: "Suppose the State proves each of these elements to your satisfaction beyond a reasonable doubt. Would you always vote to convict?" A: "It depends on the evidence, before I could say I was convinced." I repeat the hypo 3 or 4 different ways, and they still don't get it.
The movement to lower the qualifications of veniremen is nation wide, and not confined to Texas. Obviously Tenn. has the same problems we have.
You know, to say Texas lowered the qualifications by going to the Driver's License lists is probably too harsh. You know, a defendant has the right to be tried by a jury of his peers, and you've seen the defendants, right? In fact, a regular order for probation is that an educational skills level assessment be done, and the defendant follow the recommendations of the Probation Department (like GED). You know, I feel like the jury pools now are probably more likely to be a panel of the defendant's 'peers'. The Jury Panel From Hell discussion just confirms my suspicions.
But, here is the question. Say you get an upstanding member of the community indicted, and the defense is one of not guilty, and it goes to trial with another 'jury panel from hell'. Are they going to feel the need to find him guilty because they need to make an example of him?
I think I've said this before, but...going to the driver's license for your jury list does one thing. It adds to the list the people who, when they went to get their DL, told the clerk "No, I would prefer NOT to register to vote." Everytime I've renewed my license or changed my address at DPS, they've asked me that.
Now, is it any surprise that the people who made a conscious choice to have no participation in the government make sorry jurors? Maybe we should force them to be legislators instead. That way we won't get any laws passed that the juries won't enforce anyway.
Come on Beck. The qualifications of our jury panels have obviously changed. Maybe that change was required to more perfectly supply a pool of the "neighbors, fellows, associates, persons having the same legal status in society as that which he holds." Or maybe it wasn't. Hopefully we will continue to see jurors who can comprehend why they are there and who have some degree of respect for the law. Peerage is an interesting concept (and one not mentioned in the constitution).
As I undertand it, the term jury of your peers is a relic of the old English distinction between the lords and commoners. A lord had the right to be tried by other lords (after all, can't have the unwashed masses judging their superiors, can we?). The commoners were likewise to be tried by juries of non-lords.
It has never been properly understood as meaning a jury should be made up of people like the defendant, and I imagine most jurors would feel insulted if you were to suggest that. Our country was founded on the proposition that all men are created equal, which makes the term "jury of your peers" redundant.
And did y'all notice the outcome of the case heard by the jury from that "panel from hell"? If anyone has to ask why prosecutors are concerned about the quality of jurors, I'll just direct them to the last sentence in that article...
Does a "jury of your peers" mean that the defendant is entitled to be tried by twelve convicted criminals if the guy has a prior conviction?
Isn't that prospect a frightening thought? How about peers that have been charged with exactly the same crimes?
Would a voyeur, then, be entitled to trial by a jury of peerers?
My jury panel from hell was in a murder case involving a woman who killed her husband and claimed to be a victim of domestic violence, thus the battered spouse defense. I got through my voir dire ok but made the mistake of allowing the defense attorney to ask the jury what they saw when they looked at his client in the courtroom. He was aiming to make a point about the presumption of innocence and I really kind of wanted to hear the answer so I let the question slide. First juror raised his hand and said, "She looks like a battered spouse; she has that kind of hang dog look to her that people get when they're beat down." I flinched internally. Did not fall out of my chair, to my credit. Then about half the jury panel nodded their agreement. If you ever played basketball do you remember what it was like to have somebody literally jump over you and slam dunk the ball? Result: believe it or not, guilty of murder. Punishment: two years probation.
I'll never, ever forget my first jury panel with the AG's office. I had just come from Brazos County where (Aggie jokes aside) the panels were typically made up of good upstanding citizens in business clothes who had no tolerance for law breakers.
Shortly after leaving Bryan, I walked into a courtroom to try a gay-bashing murder in an unnamed, tiny east Texas county and..... let's just say I thought I had walked into central casting for Deliverance 2, Revenge of the Banjo Player.
When doing strikes, my co-counsel and I were choosing who to exercise our last strike on, when we actually used the words, "well, both ladies are wearing overalls, but Mrs. X has more teeth than Mrs. Y so I guess we better keep her."
Those panels sound a little familiar, Tanner. Being a Reservist back on duty after being in East Texas D.A.'s offices, I was shocked at the difference on court-martial panels. Everyone is in dress blues, including the accused. Most have Master's degrees. We end up with pilots, docs, chaplains and a bunch of engineers. Our main problem is with experts. Most of our juries have as much scientific or technical background as the witnesses. The science does not impress them, and if there is a flaw, it goes against the prosecution.
Our multiple county jurisdiction has one almost crime free county where the Judge has to call in 150 people for Grand Jury and then has to spend about an hour making sure that there are no relatives sitting on the same Grand Jury. Last year I had to try a DWI that was a County Court case. The Defendant was personal friends with the County Judge who went to the scene to pick up the Defendant's dog after the Defendant straddled a highway rail with her horse trailer at 10:00AM. so our District Judge offered to sit in the case. The Defendant was a very nice wealthy Rancher that claimed that she had eaten a Badger that she found as road kill and thus the small amount af alcohol that she consumed after the accident caused her alcohol level to be very high. Guilty of Class "A" DWI. Fast forward and I end up with her left on an Aggravated Sexual assault of a child case 9 months later.The victim's father was running for County Commissioner against another one of my Jurors who then wanted to be removed because he felt he couldn't be fair under the circumstances. Of course he tells us this after the fact. He ended up going to a doctor and getting himself removed and we proceeded to verdit with 11. End result was Guilty but only because the Rancher led the way for the Prosecution!!! Saw her at a Christmas party and she says she was really truthful about the badger eating part of her story!!! Amazing that she didn't hold a grudge and boy will I get a local to sit with me next time!!!
We once tried a mental commitment jury trial for which the district clerk had forgotton to summon a jury panel. Thus, we had to send the bailiff out to round up jurors from the lobby of the bank across the street. Of the 18 he managed to shepherd in to the courtroom for our mental health trial, eight had been seen and treated by the local MHMR office and, of that eight, six were current clients.
I had a jury panel my county (Hansford, Spearman, in the Panhandle) in a DWI case. I had a panel member who wanted to testify against the defendant. I had another member who wanted the defendant, who she knew very well, to prove that he was sober on the day in question. The defendant kept insisting that these persons be excused. We started with a 75 person panel for a 6 person jury. The defendant was so famous in our county that we ran out of jurors and a mistrial was declared. Defendant plead guilty the next week.
John Hutchison CA
quote:"Paging Mr. Merillat, Mr. A.P. Merillat ..."
"Revenge of the Banjo Player" what'd he do, bust his G-string?
For more on busting G-strings, see "Know it when you feel it?"
Despite the overwhelming temptations from posts by Lisa, Shannon, Wesley and even A.P. regarding banjos and their talented players, I will not comment on banjo players or their fine instrument.
But with each passing day, I lose a little bit more of my resolve.
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