As COVID-19 Infections Rise, So Do Jury Trial Suspensions

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As COVID-19 Infections Rise, So Do Jury Trial Suspensions

In the last week these jurisdictions have gone back to statewide suspension of jury trials.  The following suspensions are in addition to innumerable local orders putting discrete courts back into no-jury-trial status:

  1. Iowa (Nov. 10)
  2. Maryland (Nov. 16)
  3. New Jersey (Nov. 16)
  4. New York (Nov. 13)
  5. Pennsylvania (Nov. 17)
  6. Vermont (Nov. 17)

Some federal courts are following suit.  For example, Illinois is now reporting its highest daily case totals since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, recording a new daily high total of 6,363 new cases at the end of October. In addition, Governor J.B. Pritzker has ordered that no public or private meetings shall exceed 25 persons.  Consequently, Chicago’s U.S. District Court Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer has suspended all jury trials.

Pennsylvania Judge Who Disparaged Black Juror Resigns Day Before Misconduct Trial

Earlier we reported that Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark V. Tranquilli was charged with judicial misconduct for referring to a black female juror as “Aunt Jemima” and speculating the woman had a “baby daddy” who was dealing drugs.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, on the day before his trial in front of the state Judicial Conduct Board this week, he resigned from his judicial office without making any statement.

Louisiana Supreme Court Rejects Claim of Unrepresentative Grand Jury Pools

Donald Germany II (46 years old) is charged with second-degree murder in East Baton Rouge Parish.  His lawyers are asking the Louisiana high court to throw out his indictment, claiming that the grand jury pool excluded young persons.  Hence, they argue, it was not representative of a fair cross-section of the community.  The court unanimously rejected his appeal because age is not a distinctive group required to comprise a fair cross-section of the community for purposes of grand jury selection.  The Advocate newspaper points out that the ruling in Germany’s case does not square with the state supreme court’s ruling last year that a grand jury pool fatally lacked 18-to-25-year-old persons.

Jury Selection Bermuda Style

The divine right of kings still smolders in the British territory.  A practice prevails whereby the “Crown” has unlimited peremptory strikes while the defendant only gets three.  The Royal Gazette reports that a group of veteran defense lawyers has lodged an appeal seeking to abolish this imbalance.  Defense lawyer Mark Pettingill puts it this way, “The whole issue here, the overriding issue is about the appearance of justice that is occurring.  That must be the paramount consideration—how does this look to the defendant who is on trial?”