I suppose it is inevitable with the expansion of social media and connectivity nowadays: every juror comes into the courtroom with a habit of using their phones, and that can be hard to break. In every trial, the court tells the jurors not to discuss the case with themselves, or others. In a long trial, the court remind the jurors every time they take a break, which can add up to dozens of reminders over the course of a trial. Sometimes, the message still doesn’t sink in.
Just a few weeks ago, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest appellate court in New York, upheld the overturning of a verdict in a high profile murder case against Dr. Robert Neulander, a prominent doctor in central New York that had been convicted of killing his wife. It wasn’t due to the facts of the case, rather it came out near the end of the trial that one of the jurors had been texting throughout the trial with family and friends, to the tune of some 7000 text messages. The only surprising thing was the the trial court had allowed the verdict to stand. “The extensiveness and egregiousness of the disregard, deception and dissembling occurring here leave no alternative but to reverse,” said the court in a unanimous ruling. The juror had even deleted some texts and browser history when her conduct was disclosed.
The court has no choice but to overturn a verdict in such a case, as the confidence would be eroded in the system if the court allowed jurors to so directly (and flagrantly) violate its instructions. A lawful verdict requires the court to hold jurors to their oaths.
Another case of wild juror misconduct was reported today, also in New York, and again the trial court allowed the initial verdict to stand. One of the jurors started having romantic feelings for one of the State’s witnesses, a gang member who had agreed to testify against the defendant to consideration in his own case. The juror wrote a letter to the witness, and a romance blossomed, in spite of the court’s instruction for the jury to avoid contact with anyone involved in the case. She also wrote the prosecutor to ask the State to take it easy on her beau, and to its credit, the DA’s office notified the Defense. Still, the trial court didn’t see a problem with the juror falling for the State’s witness, and let the verdict stand. The appellate court cited the Neulander case, saying “as the Court of Appeals recently reminded us in People v. Neulander, ‘nothing is more basic to the criminal process than the right of an accused to a trial by an impartial jury.'” Sometimes the opinions write themselves. Apparently the juror and the witness made plans to marry… so, silver lining, I guess?
Your right against self-incrimination is provided by the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You can’t be compelled to provide testimony against yourself… but time and time again, criminal suspects give statements that harm their own interests. The latest example is Wade Wilson, a Cape Coral man suspected in two murders during a spree a few weeks ago. Wilson was jailed on other charges while authorities continued their investigation.
Well, our Wade Wilson, not to be confused with the comic-book Deadpool’s alter-ego played by Ryan Reynolds, just couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Wilson started calling local reporters and giving statements that were broadcast on the news. Wilson gave chilling statements about his interactions with the women. While Wilson ultimately denied being responsible for killing the women, he made multiple incriminating statements, including admitting that he was the last known person to see the women alive. The state may have charged him anyway, but it certainly didn’t help, as he’s now been indicted for first degree murder in their deaths. Yes, his news interviews will be admissible evidence against him.
This goes from the most serious charges like Wilson’s, down to misdemeanors like DUI. While the State may be able to prove up a DUI based on the observations of officers, other witnesses, or a breath result… the case gets a lot easier if the Defendant admits drinking, or how much he was drinking before he got pulled over. The cops are certainly going to keep listening.
A prisoner in Iowa says he should be released after dying an having died and having to be revived at the hospital. Benjamin Schreiber says he was sentenced to life in prison, not life and one day more. His argument was bolstered by the fact that he had signed a do not resuscitate form, and even his brother had told the doctors not to do anything more than make him comfortable. The Iowa Supreme Court denied his claim, and he will continue to serve his prison sentence.
The appellate court wrote in their opinion, “Schreiber is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot.” While he has an interesting argument that his sentence had been fulfilled, he will have to wait it out on the inside.
A customer got in an argument with with a Lehigh Acres Wendy’s employee, who proceeded to chase the customer with a pan of scalding hot grease. Fortunately, one of the other employees was able to knock the pan out of his hand before he was able to get to the customer, who was in the parking lot. No charges have been filed at this time.
It’s getting dangerous to get fast food… a few weeks ago, a woman in Colerain Township, near Cincinnati, Ohio got in a similar argument about getting refund over a mistaken order. She started throwing food at the staff, and the manager responded by throwing a blender at her. That case ended badly, as the blender broke the woman’s nose and cheekbone. At last word, no charges have been filed, and are unlikely to be filed, since the customer initiated the violence by throwing things at the manager. She may still be able to sue, and indicates she will pursue the matter. Something about waiting on fast food orders can trigger people, as I’ve seen several disputes end in violence.
Here’s the video from the Colerain McDonald’s incident: