- Sometimes they fall for each other. It happened last week in Denver, when two jurors were sent home from Alex Midyette’s child abuse trial after they were reported “walking arm-in-arm together and giggling.” In St. Louis in December, Roberto Dunn sought a new trial because two jurors had sex with each other while the group was sequestered. Another juror said she could hear them through the hotel walls.
- In January, the story was the juror who married the prosecutor. The prosecutor called the juror for coffee after the trial was over, and defendant Ryan Thompson now claims that’s grounds for a new trial.
- Then there was the juror who said she fell in love with the defendant. "When I feel the need for sex I just get it and I always get what I want," said one of her strange letters to Ricky Vasquez, after she’d agreed to the verdict convicting him.
There’s a watch-the-jury lesson here that’s pretty obvious. But there’s a more subtle lesson as well. In all three of these cases, the evidence was awful – so awful, you’d think jurors wouldn’t be able to think about anything else. Alex Midyette was accused of killing an 11-month-old baby who had 37 broken bones. Roberto Dunn’s girlfriend’s mother was stabbed to death “with several kitchen knives,” the newspaper story says. Ryan Thompson was a teenager accused of shooting and killing another teen at a party in a small Connecticut town. And Ricky Vasquez was accused of robbing and killing a 28-year-old man and dumping his body in the middle of the street as he and a friend drove away laughing. And yet, in the middle of that grim ugliness, there was love, or some version of it.
Not about you
Thus the lesson: If jurors’ minds could wander from the evidence in these trials, we can safely conclude that they wander in every trial. Jurors walk into the courtroom with complicated thoughts, from complicated lives, and they don’t and can’t set all that aside just because you’re talking. The work it takes to make your evidence and argument clear against that competition is often far beyond what most lawyers think it will be.
Related posts here:
Elsewhere, these stories were picked up in a lot of places (there's an endless fascination with misbehaving jurors), but Gideon has a special touch in discussing juror love, as in his post on the Dunn trial. Things That Make You Go Hmmm... has the "arm-in-arm and giggling" story here.
(Photo by Dave at http://flickr.com/photos/vintagehalloweencollector/3214986231/; license details there.)