Author Topic: Selecting the Jury  (Read 4270 times)

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Offline nomatter_nevermind

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Selecting the Jury
« on: June 03, 2013, 04:08:16 AM »
Seven days to trial.

I'm surprised that there hasn't been more discussion of jury selection. The case could be won, and lost, by the time the jury is seated.

The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure have ten rules governing jury selection (pp. 157-62).

Because Zimmerman is charged with a life felony, each party will have ten peremptory challenges for the regular jurors. When the alternates are chosen, each party gets one peremptory challenge for each alternate. More peremptory challenges may be allowed at the judge's discretion. (Rule 3.350, pp. 161-62)

I don't think Judge Nelson will be granting any extra peremptory challenges, given her penchant for moving things along.

What sort of considerations might arise that would motivate a judge to grant extra peremptory challenges? I would guess that doesn't happen often, especially in a case where the rules already provide for so many.

Offline RickyJim

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2013, 05:22:18 AM »
How do the questionnaires work?  Will all 500 be filled out and the lawyers be given many challenges for cause against jurors, based on the questionnaires?   A pool of 500 seems much too large if only 10 peremptory challenges are allowed for each side, unless they are generously allowed to eliminate people for flimsy stated reasons.

Offline leftwig

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2013, 07:51:05 AM »
I'm guessing hung jury is inevitable and that would probably suit the state just fine.  I'm sure they can find at least one individual to seat that will buy their story line without having to meet any burden of proof and the defense can find at least one individual that will believe GZ isn't a psycho (I think you'd have to believe GZ is a psycho to buy the story the prosecution is going to sell).

For the defense, I think the most important aspect remaining before trial is the expert witnesses.  Reich and Owens seem prepared to give the state testimony about the screams that could sway a jury.  The judge allowing their "expert" testimony seems to be the biggest threat to GZ being convicted of anything.

Offline Evil Chinchilla

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2013, 10:25:48 AM »
How do the questionnaires work?  Will all 500 be filled out and the lawyers be given many challenges for cause against jurors, based on the questionnaires?   A pool of 500 seems much too large if only 10 peremptory challenges are allowed for each side, unless they are generously allowed to eliminate people for flimsy stated reasons.
I'm pretty sure I've read somewhere that the 500 jurors include people that will be used as jurors for other cases; IOW, the Zimmerman case is folded into a general jury selection.

If FL does it like my own state, some of the 500 will be eliminated for various reasons-- based on responses to questions on the initial notice involving the recipient's general ability to serve on a jury during this term-- from even showing up at the courthouse for selection.

Those that remain will then be called to the courthouse in batches large enough to supply all cases on the docket. From that pool, a group are randomly chosen as potential jurors for a specific case, called into the courtroom, and then subjected to direct questioning by both sides to determine the actual jurors and alternates.

Anyway, that's what I had to go through several times in VA, only twice making it all the way through the process to hearing a case.

And both cases convinced me that the average jury pool is filled with idiots who don't pay attention to what's being presented to them, and that firmly believe "reasonable doubt" means "any cockamamie scenario I can invent in my own head so I don't have to later think it over and feel guilty about convicting this guy".

On the other hand, since one case resulted in 10 out of 12 jurors voting for acquittal when the accused actually admitted on the stand he'd done exactly what he was charged with, this could potentially help George.

In this particular case, we were forbidden to have a hung jury resulting in retrial, so the two of us who paid attention had to cave. Which means we acquitted a guy for violating his parole through possessing the same weapon he'd just been found guilty of stealing in a separate trial.

The other case resulted in acquittal as well, with the same 10 jurors entering the jury room and immediately announcing their intent to acquit. I attempted to at least get a discussion of the evidence and make a case for conviction, but the new juror sided with them and it was hopeless.

The defense case was much weaker and the prosecution's evidence was much stronger than in George's case. (State's evidence included an eyewitness standing just a few feet away from the armed robbery in a well-lit parking lot, plus a photo ID from the victim's wallet found in the accused's baby momma's front yard when the police arrived to arrest him for domestic violence.)

Offline lin

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2013, 12:42:13 PM »
Evil Chinchilla, your account is chilling.  After reading about your experience, I'm going to seriously reconsider my previously negative opinion of replacing a jury of one's peers with professional jurors.

A court indicating a jury must return a verdict would have resulted in a new trial had the defendant been convicted. 

Wow.  Still shaking my head.

Offline nomatter_nevermind

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2013, 04:10:36 PM »
Will all 500 be filled out and the lawyers be given many challenges for cause against jurors, based on the questionnaires?

It's my understanding that challenges for cause are usually unlimited. I couldn't find an explicit statement to that effect in the Florida rules, which is why I didn't mention it in the first post. But no limit is specified, so I would assume there is none.

Challenges for cause can be based on any information about the juror, from the questionnaires, oral questioning of the juror, or background investigation.

I don't know if the questionnaires are filled out all at once or by groups. I think it would be logistically easier to do it by groups. That would also mean that if one or more groups aren't needed, they wouldn't have to fill out the questionnaires.

Offline nomatter_nevermind

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2013, 04:48:37 PM »
I'm pretty sure I've read somewhere that the 500 jurors include people that will be used as jurors for other cases; IOW, the Zimmerman case is folded into a general jury selection.

If FL does it like my own state, some of the 500 will be eliminated for various reasons-- based on responses to questions on the initial notice involving the recipient's general ability to serve on a jury during this term-- from even showing up at the courthouse for selection.

Those that remain will then be called to the courthouse in batches large enough to supply all cases on the docket. From that pool, a group are randomly chosen as potential jurors for a specific case, called into the courtroom, and then subjected to direct questioning by both sides to determine the actual jurors and alternates.

Anyway, that's what I had to go through several times in VA, only twice making it all the way through the process to hearing a case.

It would make sense that what Judge Nelson ordered was an expansion of the regular jury pool.

I thought it was obvious that the reason for the large number was that many will be challenged because of exposure to pre-trial publicity.

Offline nomatter_nevermind

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2013, 07:24:14 PM »
Orlando Sentinel, 5/1/13
Quote
They went into the mail Wednesday, the jury notice for people who must report to the Seminole County Courthouse June 10 and decide whether George Zimmerman is a murderer.

Five-hundred Seminole County residents are being summoned, although, there's nothing on the form letter they're about to receive that spells that out.

The only hint is that the letter will read: "Report Date: June 10."

And even that does not mean the person is certain to be called to courtroom 5D, the one being used for the Zimmerman second-degree murder trial by Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson.

That's because other judges at Seminole County's two courthouses criminal and civil also need jurors that day.

In fact, Seminole County Clerk of Courts Maryanne Morse today sent out jury summonses to 4,300 people, enough to cover the needs of all six judges who plan trials in June.

Attorneys will pick a six-member jury plus two alternates for the Zimmerman trial, the judge said several months ago.

On Tuesday defense attorney Mark O'Mara predicted jury selection would take two to three weeks and the rest of the trial another two to three weeks.

Off topic, I'm surprised by O'Mara's prediction of how short the trial will be.

Offline unitron

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2013, 07:35:11 PM »
... I think requiring a preliminary hearing to determine if an indictment is justified is a good first step towards remedying the abuses we have seen in the Zimmerman case.

Like a grand jury, maybe?

Offline RickyJim

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2013, 12:29:44 PM »
Here is what Hornsby has to say about the jury.  I will be looking forward to reading his blog during the case.

Offline nomatter_nevermind

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2013, 04:07:56 PM »
Thanks. I didn't know about Hornsby's blog.

Quote
Of the nine trials I have conducted in Seminole County, four have been in front of Judge Nelson and two of those were for First Degree Murder.

In comments, Hornsby describes how the venire (new word for me) is chosen in Florida.

Quote
Jurors are obtained from Florida DHSMV records and only limitation is that they are of voting age and have never been convicted of a felony.

Not on thread topic, Hornsby, in comments, confirms that Nelson is pro-prosecution.

Quote
Unless a defense attorney has case law directly supporting an issue, she will not rule in your favor.

Offline nomatter_nevermind

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Re: Selecting the Jury
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2013, 01:44:38 AM »
The link in the first post in the thread, for the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, no longer works.

Here's a link to a different version.

Jury selection rules are in Part IX, THE TRIAL.

 

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