Tag Archives: jury selection

Supreme Court Looks at Juror Discrimination

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument on a case involving juror discrimination. The argument is that the government deliberately discriminates jurors by race; generally striking black jurors from the trials of black defendants. The case before the court is exemplar of the pattern: Georgia v. Timothy Foster. At his murder trial, every black juror was dismissed by the prosecutors. There were 5 potential black jurors on the panel from which his jury was selected, and all were struck with peremptory challenges by the prosecutor. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

However, the Foster case is unique, because over the court of the case winding its way through the appellate system, the prosecutor’s notes were obtained and included in the record. The notes offer substantial evidence that race was the determining factor in striking those jurors, though race neutral reasons were provided to satisfy the minimal legal threshold.

The notes makes this the perfect case to challenge the current procedure, which only requires the prosecutor to state a legally sufficient race-neutral reason when requested by the opposing party, known as a Batson challenge. In practice, the vast majority of Batson challenges are initiated by defense attorneys, almost always after prosecutors strike minority jurors. It remains to be seen what the court will do with the case, but some watchers noted that several justices seemed unhappy with the apparently discriminatory result of the peremptory challenges in the Foster case. Whether the overturn the Batson case and the longstanding peremptory procedure remains to be seen.

If you’re curious, I’d recommend the long article on the subject that the Daily Beast ran a few weeks ago…

A look at Racial Disparities in Jury Selection

My friend, fellow BU LAW classmate Jenn Rolnick Borchetta, was on MSNBC discussing racial disparities in jury selection. The problem is twofold: 1. There is a concern that discrimination in jury selection will deny people their Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial and, 2. If potential jurors are struck based on their race, they are being denied their constitutional right to serve on a jury. I don’t know what the answer is, but action probably needs to be taken when the NY Times article this week sounds a lot like the one published five years ago.

Here’s the MSNBC story from Newsnation with Tamron Hall (with video).

Tracie Hunter Trial Has a Jury, Openings Slated Today… After the Court Considers Subpoenas

Attorneys in the trial of Judge Tracie Hunter were able to seat a jury yesterday, on the second day of selection. Openings are scheduled for 10 am, today.

There’s a hurdle the court must address beforehand. Hunter’s attorney, Clyde Bennett, has listed a wide array of public figures from Southwest Ohio, including several journalists. There has been speculation that listing them as witnesses was specifically designed to prevent them from sitting in the courtroom during evidence in the trial. Enquirer/Cincinnati.com writer Kimball Perry, who has been live tweeting the case from the courtroom, was served a subpoena today, and attorneys for his paper are seeking to quash the subpoena in the morning. He faces being barred from covering the trial from inside the courtroom.

It will be interesting to see how Judge Nadel handle the situation. Perry has a 1st Amendment right to cover the trial, and we all have a right to have the trial covered! On the other hand, Hunter has a right to a fair trial, which generally includes sequestration of witnesses. I suspect the judge will try to find some middle ground; he must permit Hunter to call her witness if they can testify to relevant evidence, but I doubt that would necessitate barring him from the courtroom.

Cincinnati.com will be livestreaming the opening statements, tomorrow morning.

follow Kimball Perry’s live tweeting (provided he gets to keep it up): https://twitter.com/kimballperry

Jury Selection Continues in Tracie Hunter Trial

At the end of Day one in the trial of judge Tracie Hunter, jury selection is moving along. Cincinnati.com reporter Kimball Perry believes they will be able to get a jury, probably on Tuesday. The case likely won’t get to opening statements by tomorrow, and those can be expected Wednesday. The case is still anticipated to go a few weeks.


Sean Taylor Trial Jury Selection Began Today

Eric Rivera

Eric Rivera

Six years ago NFL safety Sean Taylor was killed in his home. Today, the first of the defendants in the case finally began trial. There has been relatively little news about the preamble to the case, as the judge put a gag order on all parties, and has limited what information can be disclosed. At this stage, I don’t even know what defense to expect, as so little information has trickled out.

The first trial is of the alleged shooter, Eric Rivera. Friends of Crimcourts, Chris Brown and Janese Caruthers are slated to represent Mr. Rivera, last I heard. All the Defendants are from the Fort Myers area. Since Mr. Rivera was a minor at the time of the shooting, he is ineligible for the death penalty. Normally a first degree murder case, including felony murder cases such as this, mandate an automatic life sentence in Florida. Recent court decisions may prevent the life sentence from being automatic, but it remains a strong possibility if Mr. Rivera and the others are convicted. He faces a 25 year minimum under the 10-20-Life law. Jury selection is expected to take most of the week, and the trial will continue at least into next week.

UPDATE: Finally, here’s some video from the courtroom yesterday: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/10/15/jury-selection-to-begin-for-sean-taylor-murder-trial/

George Zimmerman Jury Selection Moves Into Second Phase

zimmerman in court

George Zimmerman

The attorneys in Zimmerman’s murder trial have gone through their preliminary questioning, and have a pool of 40 potential jurors to start asking more pointed questions. They have dismissed several hundred others, who carried too great a risk of being prejudiced by the extensive media coverage on the case. They may be able to seat a jury by the end of the week. Since it is not a capital case, Florida only requires a jury of six, whose decision must be unanimous. The judge also plans to seat four alternates, and to sequester all of them during the course of the trial (after the jury selection). Zimmerman has admitted that he shot teenager Trayvon Martin, but claims that he was justified in using self-defense to do so, implicating Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The case, with its racial implications, has generated controversy around the country.

See our continuing coverage here: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/category/florida/florida-cases/george-zimmerman-florida-cases/

George Zimmerman’s Jury Will Be Sequestered

The judge hadn’t spoken on her decision regarding the sequestration of jurors until today, when she mentioned it to one of the prospective jurors. Jury selection appears to be moving along well, as going in to today there were two dozen potential jurors selected from the initial media exposure screening. The judge intends to get 30 potential jurors for a second round of more in-depth questioning.

Also, here’s a Yahoo bio piece on Judge Debra Nelson, who is presiding in this case: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/judge-george-zimmerman-trial-doesn-t-play-games-131543025.html

Robert Dunn trial, 11/14: Jury Selection Complete

Rob Spicker reports on Twitter (@RobSpickerWINK) that the jury has been sworn in the Dunn trial, and opening statements will be this afternoon.  Crimcourts won’t be able to attend, but I will try to track down a story on it. #robertdunn

Robert Dunn, 11/7

According to Wink’s Rob Spicker, the Dunn trial has moved toe the second part of the jury selection.  That is, a panel of jurors who were not disqualified by previous knowledge from the media coverage are now being questioned to see who is actually on the jury.  There are probably about 60 jurors on the panel now, which is a lot for a non-serious case, but still may not be enough to seat a death-qualified jury. #robertdunn

Today in the news- Dunn, Zumba, Hurricanes… Update: Zimmerman news

Jury selection continues to crawl along in the Robert Dunn, Bobbie Noonan Day Care 1st Degree murder case.  According to the State Attorney’s Office, they have 29 potential jurors form the first two weeks of selection, and are hoping to get a panel of 60 for the next phase.  Clearly the publicity in the case is making it difficult to get an impartial jury.  However, it’s better to spend the extra time during jury selection to make sure to get it right, so the trial doesn’t have to be retried, as the Gateway Murders trial (Fred Cooper) a couple of years ago.

Alexis Wright, the Zumba Prostitute

“Zumba prostitute” Alexis Wright

Several more names have been released in the Zumba prostitution case (Alexis Wright).  That’s about 40 names at this point… most of them in that little town.  By scale- this is bigger than the Elliot Spitzer case in New York.

And finally, Crimcourts has our fingers crossed for everyone in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  We have an exclusive update from our own correspondent in NYC (my Mom).  Even this morning the streets are deserted.  Rain started at 11 am and has gotten worse, all the stores are closed.  Mom is staying near Grand Central Station, and it’s a ghost town.  Everyone on the east coast stay safe!  (Especially you, Mom!)

UPDATE: George Zimmerman news: the judge has denied a gag order request: the new Judge, Debra Nelson, ruled the State had failed to show prejudice.  This is the second time it has been denied.  Additionally, the judge limited the State’s request for medical records.  Trayvon Martin’s family attorney has been vociferously complaining, but ironically, the outspokenness and public presence the Martin family has presented in the media with their side of the story gives further justification for Zimmerman’s defense team giving updates. #standyourground