Friday, April 22, 2005

It's Not the Crime, It's the Coverup

Special recognition goes out to Jon E. Shields today for going above and beyond in defense of his client. He is the defense attorney who, by chance, saw one of the jurors in his murder case buying two newspapers on the morning of the verdict. Since the judge had apparently admonished the jurors not to read the papers or watch the news, Shields reported the incident to the judge, but the juror denied it under oath, and the jury went on to convict Mr. Shields's client. So, Mr. Shields got the surveillance tape and the receipt from the conveniece store. In addition to the defendant getting a new trial, the lying juror is now in a whole heap of legal trouble of her own. She's facing contempt, perjury charges, and having to pay restitution for all the costs of the week-long trial, including defense costs. Some people may think is a little steep. But, this is a murder trial we're talking about. And if a juror is willing to willfully disobey one of the judge's instructions--not to mention lie to his face about it--then what is to say that juror will follow the rest of the judge's instructions, like the presumption of innocene and the burden of proof?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Les said...

"buying two newspapers on the morning of the verdict."

The "morning of the verdict" makes me suspect that the jury had already made up their minds and the verdict just had to be delivered. Could be wrong, but I doubt it.

So why all the hysteria? Maybe a lawyer who has lost a case sees a way out?

Lying about it is a separate issue.

4/23/2005 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another version I just saw just says "during the trial". However, it also says that "the only thing she learned was that an argument the defense wanted to make that the judge refused to tell the jury." Seems to me a plus for the defense. So my remark about a lawyer looking for a way out still seems to stand.

My question is why the judge would waste the funds for a new trial over something that would not have changed the outcome. As a non-lawyer it sometimes seems to me that the justice systems often shows a lack of common sense.

4/23/2005 12:20 PM  
Blogger 123txpublicdefender123 said...

First of all, the defense attorney saw the juror the morning of the second day of deliberations. A verdict was announced later that day. That means that the jury had not, in fact, reached a verdict before she purchased the newspapers.

Now, as to why it matters. There are two issues. First, the juror deliberately disobeyed an instruction by the judge. A true verdict requires that the jurors follow all the judge's instructions--everything from according the defendant the presumption of innocence to holding the state to the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt. One of the judges instructions was not to read the papers or watch the news or to read or listen to any coverage of the case or the trial. This juror willfully violated that instruction. If she violated that instruction, she cannot be trusted not to violate the judge's other instructions. Second, she lied when she said she hadn't purchased the newspapers. If she lied about purchasing them, how can we be sure that she is telling the truth now when she says that the only thing she read was about a defense argument that was excluded? For all we know, she's been reading the papers and watching the news about the trial throughout the trial.

This is not some technicality. The defense attorney was right, and the judge was right.

4/25/2005 1:57 PM  

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