Monday, November 27, 2006

Anatomy of a Rigged Jury

Posted by: at January 22, 2004 07:22 AM



This is the solution. (to getting my charges, arrest and prison record, erased)



Jury Duty Tapes Edited To Fix Errors

9:46 AM EST,January 30, 2004

By DIANE STRUZZI, The Hartford Courant



Judicial officials have recalled and re-edited about 65 videotapes used statewide to introduce potential jurors to the court system after a Superior Court judge ruled they contained inaccurate statements about the law.



The videos, called "Pursuit of Justice" and "The Voir Dire," have been seen by individuals called in for jury duty. "Pursuit of Justice" presents an overview of the judicial branch, including an explanation of the role of juries. "The Voir Dire" talks about the jury selection process, in particular the procedure in which lawyers question potential jurors.



Superior Court Judge Richard Dyer, sitting in Rockville, made his ruling after Public Defender Karen Goodrow requested that the tapes not be shown to potential jurors in a drunken-driving case. Goodrow argued that the videos were prejudicial and wrongly instructed potential jurors about their role and the law.



The portions of the tapes being disputed focused, in part, on statements about jurors determining "guilt or innocence" of a defendant.



"They're never instructed to find if a person is innocent," Goodrow said. "You could be in a situation where a jury feels the state has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but feels [the defendant] is not innocent. But because they're following the law they have to find him not guilty."



Dyer found that several comments in the videos could undermine the presumption of a defendant's innocence and ordered that they not be shown to prospective jurors in the drunken-driving case.



"Although the court believes that proper final instructions could completely cure any potential harm caused by the few erroneous introductory instructions referenced above, the court finds that it is improper to knowingly present any inaccurate or possibly prejudicial information to potential jurors," Dyer wrote in his Jan. 7 decision.



He did not uphold other objections raised by Goodrow, including her objection to the inclusion of the American flag and the U.S. Constitution in one video.



Tolland County State's Attorney Matthew Gedansky said his office argued against Goodrow's motion, but respects the judge's ruling. Judge Jonathan Kaplan, administrative judge for the Tolland Judicial District, immediately suspended the use of the videos and alerted the deputy chief court administrator and chief administrative judge for criminal courts.



"Once I'm on notice that a judge of the Superior Court feels that something we do has some constitutional problems in it, my feeling is it was irresponsible to just ignore that and show the movies in other cases," Kaplan said.

Dyer's ruling had an immediate ripple effect throughout the state judicial system. Chief Court Administrator Joseph Pellegrino called on several judges to review the tapes and determine if changes should be made, according to Melissa Farley, a spokeswoman for the judicial branch. The judges decided the tapes should be re-edited, and on Jan. 12 Pellegrino sent e-mails to all administrative judges asking them not to show the tapes. E-mails also were sent to other court officials and to law libraries, requesting they return the tapes.



"We thought we should give the benefit of the doubt to taking out those statements [Dyer] thought were objectionable," Pellegrino said. "Of course, we could have waited for an appeal, but if the Appellate Court found he was right then there might be some cases that might be overturned ..."



Farley said she believes this is the first time a Superior Court judge has issued a decision regarding the videos. An earlier version of "Pursuit of Justice" was edited after several criminal lawyers voiced concerns about the tape, Farley said. The changes will be the first made to the "The Voir Dire,", which was produced after the legislature passed a law regarding jury selection in 1996. The late Judge John Maloney largely guided the making of both videos and received suggestions from various lawyer organizations, Farley said.



The changes to the tapes included omitting an announcer's statement about juries and judges determining "an individual's guilt or innocence" and a judge's statement about deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused, according to information provided by the judicial branch.



Changes have been completed on "Pursuit of Justice," which is being redistributed to courts. Changes to "The Voir Dire" are expected to be done soon and redistribution completed within the next 10 days, Farley said. Meanwhile , judges will give oral instructions to potential jurors.



Deputy Chief State's Attorney Paul Murray said that if jurors were prejudiced by the remarks on the videos it was only in a minor way and, as Dyer pointed out, the errors could be corrected by other means.



Several defense lawyers appeared split on the impact of the videos on potential jurors.



Michael Georgetti, chairman of the Hartford County Bar Association's criminal justice committee, said he typically asks potential jurors what they thought about the tapes, but has never challenged the videos.



"First impressions are lasting impressions, and what they see in the first hour of jury duty is probably what they remember the most," he said. "If I have to pick a jury between now and the time the tapes come out, I'll make a motion for a continuance so the jury indoctrination can be reviewed by me."



Richard R. Brown said he doesn't believe the videos affect the jurors.



"My primary reason for that feeling is Connecticut has, beyond question, the best voir dire system for the selection of jurors," he said. "I feel any deficiencies in the videos were cured by an opportunity to thoroughly question prospective jurors before being seated at trial. ... I think in the real world it's much ado about nothing."



But Chief Public Defender Gerard Smyth called Dyer's decision "extremely important because it's difficult enough to get jurors to engage in the presumption of innocence when someone is arrested and charged with a crime."



"Sometimes jurors are left with the impression that their oath and obligation is to convict the guilty. Their obligation goes beyond that," he said. "What remains to be seen is whether or not the revised version of the tapes remedies the problems."



Goodrow said it would be a good time to overhaul the videos using suggestions from defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges and other court personnel. Some defense lawyers agree. Pellegrino said he isn't opposed to the suggestion and would be happy to do whatever it takes to create better videos.



Defense lawyer M.H. Reese Norris, who in the past has challenged one of the videos, said he supports the idea.



"If you have everyone's input," he said, "you won't have this problem in the future."





Posted by: at January 30, 2004 03:27 PM

 

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