"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Jury Lessons

Part 2 and Part 3 of Windypundit's jury duty story are up. He was a juror in an assault on a police officer case, which in Illinois, as in Virginia, is ramped up to a felony because of the nature of the victim, a police officer in the course of his duties.

In Windy's case, a hispanic man was stopped by a police officer and the officer claims the man got out of the car, accused him of picking on him because he was Mexican, and head-butted the officer. The officer had to have stiches in his head. The defendant claimed that the officer provoked the incident and hurt himself by headbutting the defendant, who also claimed that he had a bloody nose from the incident.

Problem was that the arrest pics show no blood on the defendant or his clothing. He claims he changed his shirt, the police say not.

Not the case of the century, but Windy's recitation of the way the evidence came out, the demeanor of the lawyers and the defendant, and especially the deliberations of the jury, make for interesting reading, especially for trial dogs who often wonder how we're perceived by juries.

The good news is, if Windy's jury is representative of juries in general, they actually pay attention to the evidence and deliberate on it pretty thoroughly. The bad news is, as I have found out, sometimes they can get hung up on really trivial details. For example, in Windy's case, the tickets the officer wrote the defendant were introduced into evidence for some reason. This lead the jury to wonder if the officer was telling the truth about the incident, since he testified he was attacked before he could write the tickets.

Now what surely happened was that the tickets were written ultimately after the defendant was subdued. This would seem so apparent that the prosecutor never bothered to actually ask the officer about it. Fortunately, Windy and his fellow jurors figured that the tickets were probably written after the incident was over. But that they spent time on such a matter underscores an important lesson for a prosecutor (or any litigator, for that matter): you may know what happened to the last detail, but the jury doesn't; you may understand what the typical process would be in a certain situation, but the jury may not: therefore assume nothing and establish everything down to the last detail! You never know what seemingly trivial fact the jury will seize upon and perhaps decide the case upon.

What was also telling was Windy's admission that it really affected him to see the defendant's family in the gallery, and the police officer/victim. It apparently made him much more careful about his decision. Word to the wise: keep your people around during argument. I like to be able to point to my witnesses in the gallery during close while I mention their testimony to bring home to the jury (without expressly saying it) that the witness cared enough to stick around and is watching what they're doing.

Windy and his fellow jurors ultimately convicted the defendant, and you can feel the ambivalence in his words as he relates the experience, not so much because of doubts about the evidence, perhaps, but because it is never easy to look at someone and say "guilty."

Excellent observations from Windy, and tommorrow hopefully he'll give us his final "refelections."

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