Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Juror's Got A Crush On You, Mr. Prosecutor

not the juror in question
I think we've been here, before, but let's revisit the story of the juror who has a crush on a prosecutor and who got a wee bit flirtatious. 
The New Hampshire Court of Appeals doesn't see a problem with this vis-a-vis the now convicted defendant who thinks, he should have declared a mistrial.  This is the report from the TimesUnion.com.  This is an excerpt from reporter Robert Galvins's story: 

If you were on trial for manslaughter, would you be OK with a juror who had a crush on one of the prosecutors?

Well, the state's highest court has no issue with it whatsoever.

The Court of Appeals said as much last week in a ruling that upheld the 2008 manslaughter conviction of Alicia Lewie of Glens Falls who was found guilty of recklessly causing the death of her 8-month-old son in 2007.   The 15th page of the 19-page decision noted that Lewie's attorney, Matthew Hug, argued the trial judge erred by not removing a female juror who had sent an "odd and inappropriate" note during deliberations.

"The note mentioned, among other things, the breakup of the juror's marriage and her view that the male lawyer who sat in the second chair at the prosecution table was a 'cutie,'" the ruling explained. "The juror asked, perhaps jokingly, to be given that lawyer's telephone number when the trial was over."

Any bias there?

Not according to the Court of Appeals.

"We think the trial judge handled this problem quite skillfully," stated the decision written by Associate Judge Robert Smith. "After disclosing the note to counsel and discussing it with them, he interviewed the juror in counsel's presence; explained to her gently that the note was inappropriate; and obtained her assurance that nothing, including her favorable impression of a prosecutor, would prevent her from being fair to both sides."

[The Court's opinion] continued, "Nothing in the interview, or in the note itself, suggests that the juror was biased."

Lewie's appeal argued the juror's actions demonstrated she had an eccentric personality.

"Eccentrics are not barred from serving on juries," the decision stated.

The ruling explained jurors can be discharged only if they are "grossly unqualified" or engage in "misconduct of a substantial nature."  In this case, the decision continued, "This juror was not grossly unqualified and engaged in no substantial misconduct. There was no reason for the trial judge either to discharge her or to make further inquiry."

The decision raises the question of what, pray tell, is substantial misconduct by a juror?  In Albany, acting Supreme Court Justice Dan Lamont regularly tells jurors that if a prosecutor or defense attorney should sneeze, they should forego natural inclinations and avoid saying "God bless you."

The reason Lamont always gives? It simply "doesn't look good."

At the state's highest court, calling a prosecutor a "cutie" evidently looks good enough.
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Got that?  Now go to jail and stop complaining.

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