Thursday, September 20, 2012
Death Penalty appropriate where jury is buying gag gifts for judge and bailiff?
Yesterday, the 11th Circuit said no problem. First the facts:
Juror MH admitted to giving the Judge white chocolate in the shape of a penis. She testified that she called her husband to request that her friend—who owned a confectionary shop—make chocolate turtles for the jury. ... The friend, in addition to the turtles, included the white chocolate penis as a gag gift to lighten things up. ... Juror MH recalls that Bailiff LP told her that the Judge wanted to see it.
On the last day of the trial, Juror MH testified that she took the chocolate, which was in a box and inside a bag, to the jury room. Juror MH gave the gift to the Judge in the jury room, and the Judge slid the gift into her sleeve. ...
Bailiff LP received an inappropriate gift of white chocolate in the shape of female breasts from the jurors. ... After Bailiff LP returned from caring for her sick mother, the court clerk gave her a box containing white chocolate breasts monogrammed “[Bailiff’s first name]’s hooters.” Bailiff LP does not know who gave her the gift. She thinks that the gift may been prompted by a discussion at dinner between two of the younger male jurors. The two jurors were discussing how their grandmothers had ample chests and that when their grandmothers hugged them they felt they would be suffocated. Bailiff LP then joined the conversation by lamenting the fact that she would be remembered by her grandchildren for her ample chest. ...
The record establishes that the unfortunate giving of these tasteless gifts was nonetheless inconsequential to the verdicts, and otherwise played no part in the judge’s or jury’s consideration of the case. The two gifts were given independent of each other, given at the conclusion of the trial, and none of the jurors testified that the gifts were based on anything that occurred during trial. Furthermore, at most only a few of the jurors were involved in giving the tasteless gifts. None of the jurors testified that the gifts bore any relation to their decision to find Wellons guilty of murder and rape, and they testified that the gifts did not affect their decision to impose the death penalty.