Just a brief note to keep you updated as we close in on the trial date. Question, who comments here, brought to my attention that the prosecutors are looking for the court “to direct the Clerk’s Office to obtain and provide to the parties the criminal histories of the potential jurors in this case.”
He asked me what I thought about it. I told him it seemed not to be something unusual. I read the prosecutors full motion. It made a lot of sense. What makes the prosecutors particularly sensitive to this is that in a case of Sampson v. United States, “the district court, almost eight years after the jury’s unanimous verdict that Sampson should be put to death, set aside the verdict on the basis of a juror’s failure to disclose certain information.”
In other words they say because “28 U.S.C. § 1865(b)(5) prohibits persons with pending criminal charges or state or federal convictions for crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than one year from serving on federal juries” they want to take every precaution possible to ensure that the jury not have such a person sitting on it.
I agree with the prosecutors that the jurors should be checked. I’ve posited on earlier days in this blog that the reason Judge Stearns should recuse himself is that there be no second guessing of the outcome as was done in the Sacco and Vanzetti case. Let’s have as clean a case as possible with both sides putting on their best efforts to see where the chips fall.
I also felt a juror with a criminal background was more likely to know something about Whitey. That could play badly for Whitey since his reputation on the streets would be carried into the jury room which the defendant should want to avoid at all costs. I expected counsel for defendant would not oppose the prosecutors’ motion.
But they did. Apparently they’re all right with a person who has a criminal background and did not disclose it in answering the jury questionnaire sitting on the jury. Or, that a person prohibited from sitting on a federal jury sitting on it.
Today they opposed the prosecutors with a weak argument suggesting: “If the Court mandates that the juror’s answer as to their criminal background be verified, then should the Court not also verify the juror’s answers to the many other inquiries posed during the voir dire process?”
I suggest this is an easy call for Judge Casper. This is going to be a long trial and every possible step must be taken to make sure once it starts it goes through to completion. One way to do that is to take some steps in the beginning to prevent possible disruptions. Double checking on the jurors is one such step.
I have to admit, though, that my desire for a fair and clean trial may be the last thing defense counsel wants. They’re trying for delay and obfuscation. Their goal is to get a mistrial. What better way to get a mistrial than to have a tainted juror spilling her knowledge about Whitey in the jury room.
I suppose the odds of getting a hung jury or mistrial are much higher than getting an outright acquittal so defense has to go with the odds. Also, there’s the ongoing and overriding theme to this case that whatever the prosecutor wants, the defense will oppose, even though like with Lola, whatever the prosecutor wants it usually gets from the trial judges.
I expect Judge Casper will OK the prosecutors request. It’s the right thing to do.