Quite a few years back I found myself being a juror in a case (Riverside, California) where some alleged juvenile gang members shot up a neighborhood (Lake Elsinore). No one was injured. The gang members were after a young man who did not fit into their group. From my point of view, the trial was all but smooth and honest. The defense attorney, throughout the trial, gave hand signals to the teenagers who had to testify as to what to say in clear view of the jury. The judge was busy grading papers and failed to catch this flagrant, egregious, unethical behavior.
The second incident, I am not perfectly sure was a problem, just a very strong suspicion. The jury was shown a video taped interview at a police station of one of the juveniles. the audio was not that good so each juror was given a book full of pages giving us what was being said so we could follow along. All of a sudden I picked up some words that heavily implied that this youth might have coerced a witness. I looked down at my note book and there it was, words that told me there was a good chance that the person we were seeing in the video might have lied and coerced a witness. It could have been a mistake of the person who tried to write down the text from listening the tape. But I had spotted the problem from the audio I was listening too from the video presentation. This could not be a problem because the lawyers must have perused the video and corresponding text given to the jury. I did not know what to do. The rest of the day, I looked back at that part of the book to see if I had made a mistake. There it was, words that, to me, implicated this young man in a more serious crime. An elderly couple, that allegedly were the target of the alleged coercion by the remarks in the book, took the stand and I looked carefully for any hint that they were not telling the truth but detected none. After lunch, I went home and drafted a letter to the judge. When we went back into the courtroom, I handed the letter to one of the police officers at the door. The judge was handed the letter and called the attorneys over for a private consultation. The attorneys allowed us to take one book into the jury room and the video playing device when we broke to decide the case. I asked for the book but could not find the passage. I had my book bookmarked where the problem was by bending back the top edge of the offending text page. I could not find the same page in this new book. The jury wanted to speed up the decision process and my issue, I decided, was not going to be pursued. Every person in the jury was offended by the defense attorney’s actions. The prosecution did not have a very strong case. We all were very disappointed in the parents of the alleged gang members. All the families seemed middle class, white, anglo, affluent, and seemed spoiled.
This is the second time that I have seen lawyers make decisions that impact the outcome of a trial in such a way that justice was not pursued in an honest and just manner.
I have looked for hours into the Internet to find a list of juror’s rights to speak up if a juror has an important issue to bring up and have found nothing. I find it absolutely appalling that the very people that need to decide the outcome of a trial must remain mute. This is a fragrant deficiency of the system.