Tag Archive: Jury


 

The Week Logo

A dirty secret of the American judicial system is that juries are hardly fair and impartial

Jury selection these days is done with a wink and a nod.
Jury selection these days is done with a wink and a nod. (REUTERS/Art Lien)

Imagine you are a defendant awaiting trial on criminal charges that could send you to prison for the rest of your life. You are sitting at the counsel table during voir dire, the process by which a jury is selected before a trial.

The prosecutor asks a potential juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?” The potential juror responds: “I would have to vote guilty.”

Your trial judge pipes up. He’s supposed to ensure that you receive a fair trial and that the jurors who will sit in judgment upon you are neutral, objective, and willing to see and hear the evidence with an open mind. The judge asks the prospective juror: “Could you return a verdict of not guilty if the government doesn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt?” The would-be juror responds: “I don’t think I would be able to.”

The prosecutor — who wants this juror on the panel because he wants to convict you — presses on. He asks the juror: “Let’s say the victim takes the stand [and] you flat-out don’t believe her. In fact, you think she’s lying. You look at her [and conclude], ‘I don’t believe a word coming out of her mouth.’ Are you going to convict this man anyway?”

The potential juror responds: “That depends. I still feel he was at fault.”

How would you feel if this juror were allowed to join the panel that determined your fate? Would you feel as though you had received a fair trial by an impartial panel, as the Sixth Amendment commands? Or would you feel that the trial judge had failed to protect your presumption of innocence?

My guess is you would feel cheated. I know I would. But yet this precise scenario unfolded in California in 2009. This juror was allowed to serve on this trial. And to date, no judge has declared it a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Now, in this particular case, the defendant, Jose Felipe Velasco, was accused of an extremely heinous crime. He was an alleged serial child rapist who had gotten a 14-year-old girl pregnant after having some form of sex with her 21 times. But that should not change our minds about whether this man should be presumed innocent and be entitled to a fair trial. Indeed, this is precisely why we have constitutional rights in criminal cases — so that fairness and due process come even to the despised.

R. Scott Moxley, a veteran reporter and columnist for OC Weekly, brought this story to national prominence this week — and it’s a remarkably ugly picture in every way. Not only were the charges awful, not only is this defendant as unsympathetic a figure as the criminal justice system churns out, but the way the case was handled was ignoble, too. Thousands of years’ worth of the presumption of innocence shouldn’t go out the window just because a defendant is accused of heinous crimes.

 

Read More Here

 

…..

The myth of the impartial juror

Crazy story from the OC Weekly about a sex crimes case in California.

After an Orange County prosecutor gave an opening statement, Juror 112 notified [Judge David] Hoffer that based on her own experiences she believes criminals should forgo trials in such sexual assault cases and go straight to prison to spare victims additional turmoil.

The prosecutor then asked the juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?”

Juror 112 responded, “I would have to vote guilty.”

Statements by lawyers are not evidence, and Hoffer followed up with the juror, according to court transcripts reviewed by the Weekly.

The judge asked if she could return a verdict of not guilty if the government couldn’t prove it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I don’t think I would be able to,” the juror replied.

 

Read More Here

 

…..

Enhanced by Zemanta

Activist Post

Army Vietnam Veteran, peaceful freedom activist, and local small businessman, Mark Schimdter, has been jailed for 145 days by Judge Belvin Perry. Schmidter’s sentence began Thursday after he was found guilty for distributing jury nullification info outside of Perry’s self-imposed “free speech zone.” during the Casey Anthony trial.

Facebook Page

Mark E. Schmidter is an activist for jury rights whose story we covered one year ago. He was originally facing a year in jail after being found guilty of two felonies: External Criminal Contempt of Court, and jury tampering, for distributing information outside the Orange County Courthouse in Florida.

We noted that Schmidter was not guilty of any actual law, but rather rules written by the acting judge. These rules that Schmidter is in violation of are for demonstrating outside of a “free speech zone” determined by Judge Perry. Schmidter, who was first arrested in June 2011, has maintained his innocence and that the judge’s orders he violated were a direct violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Furthermore, the very rule he was found to be in violation of has been overturned.

Judge Belvin Perry issued Administrative Order # 2011 03 which states that if anyone hands out information, talks or hold a sign outside the courthouse, they would be held in contempt of court and jury tampering.
Administrative Order #2011 07 states that anything that has to do with “Free Speech” may only be done in the free speech zones which are two 10’x30’ remote areas nearly a football field away from the courthouse doors. It is the same rule that was used to jail another jury nullification activist, Julian Heicklen.

Here is Schmidter being interviewed before his court appearance in June, 2011:

 

Read Full Article and  Watch Video Here