Raised Hand During Voir Dire Not Enough to Prove Bias

final-jur-e headline

Raised Hand During Voir Dire Not Enough to Prove Bias

The 11th Federal Circuit declined to give habeas corpus relief to a defendant claiming bias of a jury member who, during open-court voir dire questioning, raised his hand in response to this question: “Is there anybody here who feels that in the case—in a murder trial where it's alleged was a shooting, is there anyone here who feels that you can't be fair and impartial in this case? Is that the type of a case that you just couldn't be fair on?”  Thereafter, there was no follow-up questioning of that juror.  In Teasley v. Warden, Macon State Prison, the appellate court opined, “This appeal is about assessing juror bias based on a transcript of voir dire. Because there is more to human communication than the words we use, it can be hard for judges to glean meaning from a cold trial transcript. This difficulty is especially pronounced in assessing the comments of unprepared laypersons during jury voir dire when ‘[t]he manner of the juror while testifying is oftentimes more indicative of the real character of his opinion than his words.’ Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 156–57 (1878). And the problem is exacerbated in this case because the juror at issue, Juror Donaldson, did not say anything at all—he raised his hand.”  Nevertheless, relying in part on Georgia’s non-impeachment verdict rule, the panel concluded there was insufficient evidence of juror bias.

R. Kelly Prosecution to Proceed with Partially Sequestered Anonymous Jury

ABC News 7 in New York City reports the federal racketeering and sex-trafficking case of singer R. Kelly in New York City will be heard by an anonymous jury that will be partially sequestered.  In ruling on a prosecution motion for an anonymous jury, U.S. District Court Judge Ann M. Donnelly wrote, "Empaneling an anonymous jury is appropriate given the seriousness of the charges, the defendant's history of obstructing the judicial process, the potential for juror intimidation, and the intensity of media attention given to this case.”

Poultry Industry Exec Claims Grand Jury Foul

Rickie Patterson Blake is accused of partaking in a broad price-fixing scheme in the broiler chicken industry.   He is asking a federal judge in Colorado to authorize the collection of demographic information about grand jury members who handed down his indictment.  He claims that the grand jury selection process systematically excluded those of "certain races and ages" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The parties are awaiting a ruling in U.S. v. Penn et al.

Florida Court Reviews Lessons Learned from Conducting Remote Jury Trials

The Jur-E Bulletin earlier reported that Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit has conducted two remote jury trials.  Bench and bar leaders are now assessing the experience of those trials.  Among other things, court technology officer Mike Smith recommends that the Florida Bar CLE program incorporate a minimum one-hour requirement for video teleconferencing, marking up exhibits in video teleconferencing, and general use such as muting-unmuting and changing virtual backgrounds.  To catch up on all of the assessments, visit jud4.org for links to the 159-page final report and videos of the remote jury trials.

Virginia Governor Signs Bill to Abolish Jury Sentencing Authority

Two weeks ago we reported that the Virginia legislature passed a bill abolishing mandatory jury sentencing in criminal cases.  Earlier this week, Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill into law.