Sunday, May 17, 2009

Jay Weaver covers Liberty City verdict

Check out the interesting piece in the Herald today.
Here's the intro:

Did booting a holdout juror off the panel seal the fate of the Liberty City Six?

That is a central issue in the courtroom documents released last week after the five guilty verdicts that attracted national attention.

Known only as Juror No. 4, the woman was accused by 11 fellow jurors, prosecutors and the judge of refusing to deliberate in the federal terrorism-conspiracy case. However, in jury notes the woman said she wanted to ''see this trial to the end'' but could not withstand the pressure she was facing to change her stance -- presumably ``not guilty.''
Had she held out, prompting a third mistrial in the controversial case, the five men now facing lengthy prison sentences could have walked out of the courtroom free, because the U.S. attorney's office in Miami had already said it wouldn't try them a fourth time.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard's removal of the juror will be the centerpiece of defense appeals, based on claims that their clients didn't receive a fair trial. After Juror No. 4, a black woman, was replaced by a black male alternate, the 12-member panel convicted five of the six defendants Tuesday on charges of conspiring with the notorious global terrorist organization al Qaeda.

''Her note clearly shows that the other jurors tried to convince her to change her beliefs about the case,'' said attorney Richard Houlihan, who represented the sole acquitted defendant, Naudimar Herrera.
''They didn't agree with her, but that doesn't mean she wasn't deliberating with them,'' Houlihan said. 'Her factual beliefs were at odds with the other jurors'. Absolutely it was going to be a hung jury if she had been allowed to stay on.

The article even has a Moran/Abbell reference, citing back to when Judge Hoeveler dismissed a juror:

To follow up, Judge Lenard reviewed a precedent-setting appeals court decision from a 1998 trial in which a Miami juror was removed from a 12-member panel because she refused to deliberate. U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler removed the woman because she spent the time working on her nails.

Lenard heeded Hoeveler's example, first by questioning the 11 other panelists about Juror No. 4. They all said she was turning her back on them when they sought her opinion, and most quoted her as saying that she doesn't believe in or trust the law.

Appellate lawyer extraordinaire Richard Klugh got all Survivor on us and had this to say about the law:

An appeals expert in South Florida said the ultimate question is whether a juror is doing his or her job.

''It seems that the jurors in this case tried to make that decision themselves, as they appeared deadlocked,'' said attorney Richard C. Klugh Jr., who reviewed the notes. ``What you don't want is a situation like [the TV show] Survivor, where the majority of the jurors vote to kick a juror off the island just because of preference.''

Klugh said the removal of the juror will be a ''substantial issue'' in the defense team's motion for a new trial and eventual appeals.


Anonymous said...

Klugh is brilliant

Anonymous said...

Whatever you think about how this case was charged or whether it was a good use of resources to try this case a third, I predict that the defense will lose this issue on appeal. The black female juror was replaced with a black male alternate, which, let's face it, if the alternate would have been white, the defense's argument would have more appeal. Further, there is enough in the record to suggest that this juror was not deliberating with the other jurors. While the whole thing does make one a bit quesy, I don't think the 11th Circuit will reverse on this ground.

South Florida Lawyers said...

Isn't the question WHY the juror stopped deliberating with the other jurors? As her notes indicate, she felt disrespected, humiliated, attacked, and bullied because of her views on the guilt of the defendants.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue is whether the considerations you raise are relevant as a matter of law to the issue (i.e., whether the court would rely on those alleged facts in deciding whether the judge acted properly). Personally, I don't know the answer . . . but if the Court could rely on that as a basis then the defense might have a decent argument (of course, implicit in the court's ruling is that she believed the other jurors as opposed to the juror that was stricken; presumably that is a factual finding subject to some heightened standard or review).