Juror fined $11,000 for doing research on a case, despite being instructed not to

Discussion in 'Law & Justice' started by kazenatsu, Jun 30, 2021.

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  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    A member of a jury was issued a fine of over $11,000 by the judge because he did his own research into the case he was on, despite the jurors being instructed by the judge not to.
    The individual did his own research, and then shared that information with the other jurors. One of the other jurors reported it to the judge. The judge then declared a mistrial.

    The name of the juror is Stephen Meile, from Lumberton, New Jersey. The judge was Robert B. Kugler of the U.S. District Court. The case in question concerned a Nicaraguan immigrant who had become a permanent resident but was then accused of assaulting an immigration enforcement officer. The immigrant had been convicted of crimes in New Jersey state court in 2002 and 2005, which then led to federal officials seeking his deportation in 2017.

    It is not clear what exactly the research that the juror did was about.

    The Court ordered the jurors to not visit the scene, conduct experiments, consult reference works or dictionaries, or search the internet, websites or blogs for additional information, or use any other method to obtain information about the case, or anyone involved in the case.​

    Juror Fined More Than $11,000 for Doing His Own Research, Causing Mistrial in Case of Alleged Assault on Immigration Officer (msn.com)

    I am a little conflicted about this.

    It seems that jurors are tasked with making a decision based on the evidence, but only the evidence they are allowed to hear.

    It is of course understandable why they would not want the jury to be prejudiced by information that should not be relevant, or would not be fair to the defendant to consider.
    But then the issue is who is the one deciding which information falls under that category.
    Doesn't that defeat some of the purpose of having a jury in the first place? The jury might not really be truly deciding the case. They are deciding the case based on the information the judge has decided they should hear.

    If I was a juror I would have a very difficult time coming to a decision while knowing there might be some crucial piece of evidence that the judge is not permitting one of the sides to tell.

    Just a thought, but maybe they should allow the jury to come to a verdict first, based on the selective information they are allowed to hear, and then afterwards ask the jury to tell if they would have changed their decision after being allowed to hear all the information and evidence. That might help another appeal judge know whether the withholding of certain information may have affected the outcome of the case, so they can better know what to examine when they are questioning whether it was fair.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2021
  2. joesnagg

    joesnagg Well-Known Member

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    A "trial" is nothing so much as game designed for lawyers by lawyers and to ONLY be played by lawyers, "Justice" has no bearing on how the game is played, PERIOD. As for this schmuck of a juror, he now knows how seriously lawyers take it when someone dare muck up THEIR game.
     
  3. Chrizton

    Chrizton Well-Known Member

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    Likely it was the criminal history that was the problem. In my state, criminal history is generally not allowed to be introduced to a jury except in very limited circumstances, usually to impeach the defendant if they testify. An example would be if the defendant testified, "Oh I am an honest guy. I would never steal anything". Then the prosecutor could introduce their record if they had been convicted of stealing or fraud or whatever. This was something that came up in a local death sentence appeal case several years ago. Basically the defense attorney from the trial was being dragged through the mud by the appeals lawyers for not introducing certain evidence on behalf of the man that was convicted and sentenced to death. The local prosecutor's office somewhat unexpectedly did a press release detailing why that non-disclosure by the defense lawyer had helped the defendant. If the trial attorney had introduced the cherry-picked information the appeals lawyers claimed should have been introduced, it would have opened the door to the prosecutor's office presenting the defendant's juvenile record which had several violent crimes in it.
     
  4. Collateral Damage

    Collateral Damage Well-Known Member

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    Prior bad acts, I believe it's called. IMO, I believe the character of a person can be found in 'prior bad acts'. While some may not be relevant, it shows character and judgement.

    Just as with background checks for employment, if someone committed a 'stupidity' 10 years ago and has been clean since, is one thing. Committing violent crimes even 10 years ago is a different category.
     
  5. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Yes, I suspect that the research the juror did here was into what crimes exactly the immigrant had previously been convicted of.

    This might go both ways. If they were heinous crimes (like rape for example) it might prejudice the jury and make them want to give the defendant more punishment, or not give him any benefit of the doubt when there are accusations of a new crime.
    If, on the other hand, the crimes were trivial, then it might make some of the jurors overly sympathetic towards the immigrant, viewing it as unfair that the immigrant should now have to face deportation because of trivial crimes in the past. They might then view the immigrant as feeling like he was acting in self defense when he assaulted the immigration officer who was trying to arrest him so he would be deported.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2021
  6. Eleuthera

    Eleuthera Well-Known Member Donor

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    Beginning with the Sparf decision in 1895 there has been an effort by the judiciary to keep juries in the dark. An excellent example was the jury in the Branch Davidian trial.

    The judiciary goes out of its way to keep the jury misinformed. This case sounds like another example of that.

    Sadly, many jurors enjoy being uninformed and end up becoming rubber stamps for the prosecution.
     
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  7. Bob Newhart

    Bob Newhart Newly Registered

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    When jurors present evidence, they either become prosecutors or defending attorneys. The juror presents evidence without the other side being able to either refute the evidence or present counter-evidence. In addition, allowing jurors to do this demonstrates that the defendant's rights are being violated because they obviously are not receiving an impartial jury.
     
  8. FreshAir

    FreshAir Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    every juror knows it's against the rules, I have no issue with the fine
     
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  9. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    I think the issue is should it be against the rules.
    There might, in some situations, be some instance where there is some vitally important fact relating to the case that the jury should know, and weigh while making their decision, but the jury is not permitted to hear about it in the court room.
    There seems to be some inherent tension between trying to prevent the jury from being biased with facts that should not be relevant; and trying to make sure the jury is informed and nothing is being intentionally hidden from them, to ensure a fair trial.
    If some critical fact is being hidden from the jury by the judge, then the jury is not really the one who is actually deciding guilt or innocence in that case, like many people automatically assume. You're not really in control of your decision if the information with which you need to base your decision on is being selectively fed to you.

    Anyone should be able to see why this is a concerning issue.
    The whole concept of justice in the US is based on the idea that defendants have a right to a jury trial, and a right for a jury of 12 random people to decide their case, rather than a single judge. Limiting information the jury can hear could take away that right.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2021
  10. Eleuthera

    Eleuthera Well-Known Member Donor

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    This sounds like some sort of psychobabble.

    In which jurisdiction in the US are jurors allowed or required to present evidence?
     
  11. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    I think you were misunderstanding what he was saying. What he was trying to say was "If they present evidence, it will not be fair", meaning if the jury gathers its own evidence it might not be openly presented in court in such a way that one side would have an opportunity to refute it.

    I can understand this logic, but there has got to be some other way to be able to deal with that, in a fair way.
     
  12. Monash

    Monash Well-Known Member

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    The problem is a court is that for the duration of trail all jurors are supposed to 'live' inside an evidential black box. And that black box is the courtroom. Nothing they hear or see outside of the court is supposed to influence they're thinking about the case. And that includes anything they may for instance see on the news if they are allowed to go home at the end of every day. In fact they're usually warned not to watch the news if the Judge believes the trial might be attracting a lot of media attention..

    Before they're even selected potential jurors are questioned about what they know about the case and their ability to remain impartial. They are also required to state under oath they won't let anything they may believe or have heard outside of court effect their judgement in the case. Hell. they're not even supposed to discuss what they hear in court with they're families or answer any questions about the case. And all that continues right on through until either a verdict is reached or the jury is discharged!

    Unfortunately you can never underestimate human stupidly. And I've seen or heard of jurors who undermine trials by doing even worse things than this man did.So basically the guy got what he deserved for not listening to the Judge's instructions in the beginning.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
  13. Jolly Penguin

    Jolly Penguin Well-Known Member

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    Exactly this. The Jury is there for a very specific reason, and that reason is to decide guilt or innocence based on admissible evidence that is addressed by both sides. A juror “doing his own research” violates the scope of his role and triggers a mistrial.
     
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  14. modernpaladin

    modernpaladin Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Im of the opinion that the restrictions on information that can/cant be provided in the courtroom ought to be stacked against the prosecution. Better 10 guilty go free than 1 innocent be imprisonned. Let the defense offer any evidense/argument they got, keep the prosecution limited.

    Thats said, I do agree that jurors be prevented from bringing in outside information. There isnt much that can be done to keep a determined individual from researching, but i agree with penalizing them for divulging it to other jurors. The individual can 'hang' the jury all by themselves if they're so sure. No need to bring in potentially false evidense to it.
     
  15. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    The same thought occurred to me also.

    Still, I have a few reservations about whether that would be entirely fair. Victims are also entitled to justice.
     
  16. GrayMan

    GrayMan Well-Known Member

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    If the defendant feels evidence needs presented to help him or her, he can tell the lawyer. If the lawyer refuses, fire them.

    I'm not interested in jurors helping the prosecutor. We should vote for different chief prosecutors if we feel they are not presenting evidence correctly.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
  17. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    That seems like an ignorant statement. That type of talk makes me think you do not really understand the issue.
    The issue is not the defendant's lawyer. It would be the judge who does not allow the defense lawyer or the defense to present certain information to the jury.

    Again, the issue we are discussing is not about the prosecutor.
    It would be a judge who would not permit a prosecutor to present certain information to the jury.

    I'm not sure why you are having trouble understanding what the issue we are discussing is about.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  18. GrayMan

    GrayMan Well-Known Member

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    If a judge blocks information it's generally for good reason. Go to the press and work to Vote in a different judge if they suck at their job. Also, appeal to a different court.

    If your lawyer isn't helping with this and just let's the judge walk all over you, get a new lawyer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
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  19. Melb_muser

    Melb_muser Well-Known Member

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    It's an imperfect judicial system, but it's even worse if everybody does what they want. Follow the Judge's instructions.
     
  20. Pants

    Pants Well-Known Member

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    We have a huge issue, here at PF, with members believing or not believing the MSM. And we now have the issue of 'alternate facts' introduced into our online sources. As a defendant, how many here would be content knowing that the jury was shown evidence presented by CNN, MSNBC or Fox?
     
  21. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    That is the current system that exists. But I think you are still sidestepping the whole issue brought up in this thread.

    The question is, might there ever be cases where the judge decides to block information but it leads to a great degree of unfairness in the case to do so?
    And should the decision be left up to the judge to decide? Our society usually thinks the jury should be the one to decide. If the judge can decide to have information blocked from being considered by the jury, then it might not really be the jury who is actually deciding the case, in a way.

    The issue posed by this thread is whether there might be a different and better way of handling this type of issue. A change in the system or a change in the law.

    Your statement seems to be trying to argue that adequate protections already exist in the current system and nothing needs to be changed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  22. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    That is also true. But the reality is it's very hard to find jurors who have not already seen sensationalized media coverage in the news.
    Jurors can also easily lie and say they have not seen media coverage when they actually have and are following that media coverage closely.
    Other jurors will lie and say they have seen the media coverage just to get out of jury duty.
     
  23. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    I'm just saying, there is potential for unfairness or abuse here.

    And if the judge blocks any information, it's not really the jury who is deciding the case, even if there is a jury that comes to a decision.

    Yes, there might be many cases where that information should have obviously been seen as irrelevant and it should have obviously been withheld from the jury, but there might be other cases where the issue of whether to block that information from being heard by the jury was very arguable or controversial.
     
  24. JET3534

    JET3534 Well-Known Member

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    The is true for both criminal and civil trials.
     
  25. BleedingHeadKen

    BleedingHeadKen Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    That's how it works.

    The defense and the prosecution both decide these things.

    A few years ago I was on a bank robbery case. We convicted the guy, and I only went along with the conviction because the cameras caught his face really well, and his face was very distinctive. The defense tried to get him off on the lack of physical evidence, such as fingerprints, and a few contradictory statements. If the cameras hadn't been so good, I wouldn't have been able to convict.

    I looked him up after the trial. He was already in prison for another bank robbery. This was part of a string of them. Should I have known that ahead of time? Are previous convictions proof of this particular crime? Bank robberies happen every day, and the way he went about it wasn't all that unusual. It could easily have been someone else, or one of his friends who went with him on an earlier robbery. But that certainly would have lead the jury to convict despite the lack of other evidence.

    That's why juries are supposed to be impartial and know only about the case. If they have information from out side the case then it must be either a mistrial, or introduced as evidence and both sides allowed to address it and call witnesses. You don't want to be dragged onto a jury like that; you might be on it for a very long time.
     

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