Archive for Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Juror misconduct can be grounds for appeal

August 12, 2009


Matthew Jaeger: Guilty Verdict

More coverage of the trial of a former Kansas University student accused of beating and kidnapping his ex-girlfriend.

Local attorneys were surprised by Wednesday’s accusations of juror misconduct in the Matthew Jaeger trial and said misconduct can lead to prejudice against a defendant.

“It is problematic, and especially when you’ve had a trial that’s gone on as long as this one has, and you get to the very end and you find out that a juror has done this — misbehaved — it causes a lot of potential problems,” said Suzanne Valdez, clinical associate professor at Kansas University’s School of Law.

It was never specified in open court why the juror was accused of misconduct, but defense attorneys said he allegedly re-enacted a material fact in the case. The accusation came Wednesday, at the beginning of the jury’s third day of deliberations. Testimony began Aug. 5.

Despite defense attorneys’ request for a mistrial, Douglas County Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild dismissed the juror and replaced him with an alternate, who had listened to testimony but had not participated in deliberations.

“Now what you have is a situation where they all have to go back into deliberations and review everything all over again with this new alternate,” Valdez said.

Judges frequently remind jurors not to give in to external influences, such as media reports, during a trial and not to drive by the scene of an alleged crime. Recently, Douglas County judges reminded jurors they’re not to discuss the case on social media Web sites such as Twitter.

“This is going to be increasingly difficult to control,” Valdez said. “It’s just too easy to go to your computer at home at night, get on the Internet, and get some information. You think it’s harmless, but if a judge has told you not to do it and you do it, then it could cause possible problems for defendants in these types of cases.”

Because Fairchild replaced the juror in the Jaeger trial, Valdez said, it’s almost certain the case would be appealed if Jaeger is convicted.

Prosecutors did not request a mistrial and requested the juror be replaced with an alternate.


GardenMomma 8 years, 9 months ago

What did he do? What was "re-enacted"? And how was it discovered that he did this?

helter_skelter 8 years, 9 months ago

Pretty sure he re-enacted the choke hold move. Why? No idea why he would re-enact it, and why that would be grounds for dismissal, but whatever. I'm just praying that the jury gets down to business now and convicts this piece of filth before the weekend. Get this over with, and throw him in jail where guys who beat up women get put on the bottom of the food chain.

jmatthews5 8 years, 9 months ago

"Someone please post the name of the guy."

Coming from the anonymous poster on the site. Classic

What exactly is posting the name of this person going to accomplish? The guy made a mistake. I'm really surprised that these kinds of things don't happen more often. From what the article says, it sounds like he was making an honest attempt to see if one of the sides of the story was plausible. The judge said it wasn't worthy of a mis-trial, so move on. The defense was going to appeal no matter what, so the "reporting" here by Mr Fray is a complete waste of time.

caec 8 years, 9 months ago

There are many things that are "grounds for appeal", that doesn't make it grounds to overturn the conviction. This is why the system allows for alternates. The judge looked at the caselaw and questioned the jurors to determine what, if any prejudice, had occurred. It's a non-issue.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 9 months ago

Because his "re-enactment" wasn't evidence so if it was being used to deliberate on the person's guilt that IS a big deal.

Again, more pointless and uneducated banter from the uninformed...

Ya, lets keep focusing on social class instead of focusing on justice. This kind of impropriety from a juror is important no matter the social background of the accused or what act the defendant has been charged with.

BlackVelvet 8 years, 9 months ago

Let's hope that the family and all it's $$$ didn't buy the juror to do this, just so they'd have grounds for appeal. I'm sure they would not do this...............................................

Matthew Herbert 8 years, 9 months ago

before we discuss appeals....can we please get a verdict?

newbee2 8 years, 9 months ago

So what if a juror already knew what the bare naked choke hold can do? Is that juror misconduct if the juror told the other jurors that he has seen the manuever performed on numerous occassions and knows what it can do? I mean, reasonably speaking, we have a lot of people who have military experience and this is a move that they teach in basic training in the Army and the recruits practice this move on each other all the time, some just for kicks. I am not military but have seen it myself several times. I never saw a question on the juror questionaire that asked if a person knows how or has seen this performed.

caec 8 years, 9 months ago

Newbee2, jurors are instructed that they are allowed to use their common sense and experience in their deliberations.

aletheia 8 years, 9 months ago

Yesterday's Twitter posting; "Defense: "Not like a simple drive by ..., the allegations here involved a re-enancment of a material fact in this case."

My hunch is the juror either drove by the victim's apartment or possibly, tried to reenact the route taken from her apartment, where the defendents were detained and the direction they were going, as compared to the proximity of the hospital.

It may grounds for an appeal, but I doubt enough to overturn a conviction. Just my two cents ...

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

Having served as a juror and taken it seriously, I find the system to be extremely flawed.

There is much information that the jury doesn't have access to, many times wrongly so, imho.

The idea that one would try to see for oneself about some of the claims by either side is a reasonable one for someone trying to really get to the truth of the matter.

And, wouldn't that be an important part of justice?

ebyrdstarr 8 years, 9 months ago

Because, jafs, the role of the juror is not to ferret out the truth, much as you want it to be. The role of the juror is to judge the state's case. If there is information that the juror does not have access to through the court proceedings, that is a knock on the state's case. The state bears the burden of proving the case. The state also bears the burden of producing the evidence and information necessary for the jury to reach a guilty verdict. If the state fails to do that, the jury can't try to fill in those gaps for the state. Instead, when the state has not answered all the questions the jury has, the proper response is to find the state has failed to meet its burden.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

jafs, juries are supposed to determine factually what happened based off the evidence and testimony presented to them; nothing more, nothing less. I'm sorry you think that is flawed, but a prosecutor has the discretion to present the best evidence he can to prove his case. The reason juries may not have access to certain information would be because it might be hearsay, or it might be prejudicial, or because it might violate any number of evidentiary rules that govern a court proceeding.

No one can go back to the events of a particular incident to determine what ACTUALLY happened. A trial is designed to present as much information to a jury as is proper and possible, and from there, they make a determination of what happened. In most cases, it would be very helpful to know just a little more about this issue, or a little more about that issue, but it isn't feasible or possible a lot of the time. It's not a perfect system, but if you can come up with a better one, I'm sure we will all listen.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

Well, the jury trial I was on involved someone suing the estate of a dead man.

At least, that was what we were told.

In fact, it really involved one insurance company suing another, and that information was not given to the jury, most likely because insurance companies had lobbied our government to prevent it.

These are very different situations in my view.

And, I completely understand our adversarial system and the burden on the state. I just think that a system which first attempted to arrive at the truth would be a better one.

bad_dog 8 years, 9 months ago

jafs, the jury isn't given certain information because the Judge decided not to allow it into evidence. The Court made a decision regarding issues such as the relevance and prejudicial effect to the defendant of each piece of evidence. Those decisons are not subject to a juror's critique or review-only an appellate court. Whether that is wrong or not in your opinion doesn't matter. That is the way the judicial system works and it isn't up to you or I to decide to tweak it because that is your interpretation what justice should be.

And no, it is not reasonable for a juror to decide what the truth of the matter is or how to get to it aside from what is provided by the Court. As a juror you are simply charged with listening attentively to the facts, evidence and law presented to you during the course of the trial. You then make a decison based solely on that input. It doesn't require 12 independent investigators to go out each night following the proceedings to verify the accuracy of everything they heard that day and to corroborate each fact themselves, nor head to the law library to research case law and formulate their own opinions on the application of the law.

I know it can be difficult for some people, but all you need to do is to listen and follow the instructions provided by the Court.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

And, many of the basic requirements for our system to work as it ought to are not even usually met.

Most juries are not a "jury of one's peers" - how often are jurors actually similar to defendants?

Also, most of the jurors on my trial were clearly biased - the idea of unbiased jurors is hardly ever met.

Finally, since the government only reimburses people about $12/day, most folks are understandably anxious to get back to their regular job (which usually doesn't pay them for jury time), and thus not willing to take the time necessary to make a good decision.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

Well, to give the "lawyer" answer, truth is pretty hard to find in the courtroom. Not because we aren't trying to determine what happened, but because there are at LEAST two sides to every story, and the truth is usually somewhere in between. And lawyers are limited in what they can present to a jury for a number of reasons.

I don't do estate law, so I'm no expert, but my guess is that the fact that two insurance companies were involved in your case had nothing to do with the actual "facts" that you as a jury were supposed to decide. I know the existence of insurance in a lot of injury cases is not supposed to be divulged to juries. Point is, the jury's job is to look at the facts of the incident, not who might pay the bill depending on their decision.

Sigmund 8 years, 9 months ago

"Because Fairchild replaced the juror in the Jaeger trial, Valdez said, it’s almost certain the case would be appealed if Jaeger is convicted."

Or more accurately, the replaced juror will give the defense additional grounds for appeal, this case was always going to be appealed.

jafs (Anonymous) says… "In fact, it really involved one insurance company suing another, and that information was not given to the jury, most likely because insurance companies had lobbied our government to prevent it."

Correct, because they don't want jurors making decisions based upon their hatred of insurance companies but based upon actual legal liability. Too many people like you would ignore the facts and the law and simply "stick it to the insurance company" eventually raising everyone premiums.

Jersey_Girl 8 years, 9 months ago

Okay, skimmed most of the posts, didn't read 'em all, word for word. I would just like to iterate that Pedro asked for a mistrial when the juror was dismissed and Judge Fairchild denied it, which tells me that if there is a conviction and Pedro asks/demands a mistrial, Judge Fairchild is likely to deny that one as well. Just cuz they want one doesn't mean that they get one. It may give them a chance to appeal, but I think if this jury convicts him, so will the jury at an appeal. And, they can apply for an appeal and that too can be denied.

bad_dog 8 years, 9 months ago

"In fact, it really involved one insurance company suing another, and that information was not given to the jury, most likely because insurance companies had lobbied our government to prevent it."

jafs, I assume that in your case you arrived at a verdict based on the facts, evidence and the law provided to you by the Court. Did you also need to know insurance companies were involved to reach a verdict and prevent a hung jury?

Evidence of the existence of insurance in a given case is frequently not admissable. Perhaps the dead person whose estate was sued-the defendant, was considered the person responsible for causing damages to another-the plaintiff. Assuming the plaintiff was insured for their loss and their insurer paid for the damages allegedly caused by the decedent/defendant, the plaintiff's insurer likely made a subrogation claim against the decedent's estate and his/her insurer. As a matter of contract under the policy, the insurer likely had a duty to defend their defendant/insured.

No great conspiracy there. It's just a matter of public policy not to bring evidence of insurance into the matter. Otherwise, jurors sometimes get the idea that simply because some person got injured and the defendant's got insurance, why worry about fault? Just award some damages and let's go have a beer. No harm, no foul. It's just an insurance company that has to pay, right?

On the other hand they could take the position the plaintiff has insurance so he/she has already been adequately compensated and seeking anything more is being greedy. Either way, have the interests of justice been served by telling jurors insurance companies were involved?

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 9 months ago

Sigmund says: "Or more accurately, the replaced juror will give the defense additional grounds for appeal, this case was always going to be appealed."

Ditto. Explanation point.

And also what caec says here. And mdfranz too.

ridinthefence 8 years, 9 months ago

Thank you Judge Fairchild. Lets get on with it. Enough time and money has been spent on the little creep.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

Jersey, what are you talking about "a jury at an appeal"? An appeals court has nothing to do with a jury. If the jury finds him guilty, the only way any other jury would ever be involved is if the appeals court overturns and requires a new trial. Just a point of procedure in our justice system.

If he was convicted, it would seem Jaeger would have appealed no matter what. The misconduct issue is more fuel to the defense fire, but it probably didn't lead to an appeal by itself (as many have already pointed out). Jersey, you are correct in that just because the defense asks for a mistrial doesn't mean they get one, at the trial court level or the appeals level. Likewise, although I don't know the exact percentage, I'm guessing a good number of criminal cases (especially for serious crimes as in the present case) get appealed even if there is little to no chance of being overturned. If the case is solid, then there's really not that much to worry about.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 9 months ago

"consumer1 (Anonymous) says… Eride say's ” Ya, lets keep focusing on social class instead of focusing on justice”.

What a joke?? are you seriously that ignorant? As if Justice isn't Biased by economic standing???? Really???? We have two prison systems one for the wealthy and one for the rest of us. So, how is first year law school going anyway??? Time you read some books on reality instead of theory."

My response: Are you really that illiterate? Maybe you should try reading some books yourself so you can comprehend what other people are writing and respond on topic. If you look at the context of my post my argument obviously leans more towards that every defendant deserves the same level of juror behavior not that the law is equally fair to people with means and without means in all situations. That is an illogical leap that you took yourself from my words that was not there in the first place.

Yes, how dare I suggest that juror malfeasance is never a good thing, I know that if it were one of you on trial I am sure you would just love to have a juror using something other than evidence to persuade the jury to convict you.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

Roads, you just contradicted yourself. In your second paragraph you discuss how much impact the dismissed juror's actions/words might have to taint a jury, and then you say at the end that it's "ludicrous" to suggest that juror misconduct could be grounds for an appeal. Seriously?

If you read the main article about the dismissal of the juror, there is a comment about how the other jury members seemed to realize immediately that what he did was improper, and that they weren't allowing themselves to be swayed by his actions. The article also states that the foreperson said it was a "limited statement" by that juror. If that is true, then it would not be IMPOSSIBLE for this jury to avoid prejudice or injustice. However, if the tainting had been much more extensive and Fairchild didn't grant a mistrial, that is CLEARLY an appealable issue. In this case, the mistrial is probably improper. However, juror misconduct, under a different set of circumstances could easily lead to an appeal, and possibly even grant a retrial.

bad_dog 8 years, 9 months ago

Also Roads, I don't believe the juror broke any laws. He simply violated the rules of juror conduct and was dismissed on that basis.

Jersey_Girl 8 years, 9 months ago

mdfraz - and would the new trial after the appeal not include a jury?

Alexander Neighbors 8 years, 9 months ago

I don't know if he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or if he is innocent, I just know the more they keep messing his trial up the more doubt I have. Due to the fact I have seen ordinary trials take a turn for the bizarre and when that happens it usually means the person is innocent and the Good'ol boys club dont want him in their city..........

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

IF it went to a new trial, yes, Jersey, it might include a jury if Jaeger wanted that again. However, the appeals court could either affirm the conviction or overturn the verdict on a point of law and possibly not remand for a new trial at all. Furthermore, as for the appeals court itself, it is a panel of judges and there is no jury involved in any way. That was my point.

freash, what has happened that is "bizarre"? Every jury trial of this length and complexity has alternates specifically because things happen where a juror cannot complete their duty and they need to be replaced. This is not that uncommon. I'm guessing you are still relying on your experience with the good old Yellow House which you just can't seem to let go. Just because a juror did something he shouldn't have in this case has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on Jaeger's guilt or innocence. But judging from your previous posts, I'm guessing you really don't care about this case, you just want to find something you can b*tch about because of your view of the LPD and Dg. Co. DA (or possibly all law enforcement in general). It's old, tired, and nobody cares.

Alexander Neighbors 8 years, 9 months ago

mdfraz, I was simply making a point there have been other cases I can name off the top of my head that started out normal then just went bizarre and the Yh case is not the only case I was speaking of but I am glad you dont care about what the people who are put in charge of protecting you do to other people in the community. BTW my view of the LPD is good there are a lot of good police officers on the lpd but just like anyplace there are bad ones too.....

IF this is the only situation in the case then good BUT.......if there starts to be a lot of situations in the case then I would start to become concerned.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

I'll reiterate: because of one juror's misconduct (which was quickly and adequately addressed), you are trying to say that this case is now "bizarre". Why? How? What is so strange about the happening of an event that is planned for in nearly every jury trial that lasts more than a day or two?

How in the world do you make the comment that I don't care about what cops or prosecutors do in my community? Because I called you out on harping on the same case over and over? I don't know every detail about the YH case, so I won't comment. However, in the Jaeger case I have seen NOTHING from the police, DA's office, crime labs, or anyone else involved that anything was done improperly or unprofessionally. So, if you want to provide other cases that should concern me about widespread incompetence or corruption in Lawrence and Douglas County, please do. Until then, no, I'm not concerned. And yes, I do remember the case of the LPD officer who was selling DVD's and trying to return empty cases. As you point out, correctly, there are a few bad apples in any given group of people, but it doesn't necessarily spoil the whole bunch.

If/when there are multiple examples of problems in the community, then yes, I agree we need to demand they be addressed. However, without evidence of such problems, I refuse to bash police and prosecutors for their performance.

Jersey_Girl 8 years, 9 months ago

mdfraz - let me clarify my statement. If Jaeger is convicted, he will most likely appeal. If the appeals court grants the new trial, hopefully, the same witnesses will still be around to testify and the same evidence will be presented and that jury will find him guilty as well as I hope this one does. That is what I meant by "a jury at an appeal".

Jersey_Girl 8 years, 9 months ago

And I'm out. This thread is getting bizarre.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

Fair enough. I was just confused by your first statement.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

bad dog,

I think the real parties to a lawsuit should be known by the jurors.

People are biased in many ways - in our case, the plaintiff was black and 11/12 jurors were white - I'm sure racial bias played a part in our decision.

In addition, the defendant was a lawyer - you don't think people are biased about lawyers?

And, when the defendant's attorney pranced around talking about "suing a dead man's estate", you don't think he brought forth unwarranted sympathy?

My point is that jurors don't generally operate as unemotional unbiased fact-sorters, which is part of the problem.

And, I would say that knowing the truth of a situation is a necessary precondition for justice. If we don't know what really happened, how can we possibly arrive at a just outcome?

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

jafs, yes, jurors are human beings with emotions, biases, etc. and attorneys know that. However, the fact still remains that whether an insurance company or the party him or herself will be paying a judgment has NOTHING to do with the underlying facts that a jury is to determine. In the estate case (or a car accident case) the REAL parties are the people who were involved in the underlying relationship. The insurance company only becomes involved because of the situation; they did not cause the situation.

So, for instance, in a car accident, driver 1 and driver 2 are the parties, even if the battle is really between the insurance companies over money damages. As a juror, no, you don't need to know that the insurance companies are involved to be able to determine who might have been at fault in the accident. That's the jury's job. What money then changes hands and who pays/receives it is not the jury's concern. The resolution of the facts giving rise to the suit are the jury's only concern. I'm sorry if you don't like that, but that's the jury's role in our system.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago


In our case, the defendant had already admitted fault, the only issue to be decided was damages.

And, for Marion:

From Webster's - peer: one that is of equal standing with another: one belonging to the same societal group esp. based on age, grade or status.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

But whether the defendant himself or his insurance company was to pay the damages, couldn't you as a jury just decide what percentage to assess without caring who ultimately would be paying? If you knew it was the insurance company instead of the defendant personally, would that have changed your mind?

Alexander Neighbors 8 years, 9 months ago

you mean to tell me it was a white boy that tore up a black girls vaginal area with a weapon, and the 11 of the 12 jury members are white ?

what happend to a jury of your pears !

bad_dog 8 years, 9 months ago

jafs, the real parties to the lawsuit are generally public knowledge unless the action involves a minor. In fact, the parties are known as the plaintiff and the defendant. That is all you as a juror need to know about the litigants and as you characterized it; "the truth of the situation". As mdfraz noted above, you don't need to know whether insurance companies are involved to perform your function as a juror, i.e. to determine liability and the amount of damages in a civil trial, or guilt/innocence in a criminal trial. The presence/absence of insurance has no relationship whatsoever to a determination of liability or damages. Nor should it. That is the truth of the situation.

As for whether the defendant was a lawyer, why should that matter to a determination of liability and damages? You may not like lawyers, someone else may have had a bad experience with a dentist or an accountant, a person of a different race or religion, etc. People of all races, nationalities and religions have biases, prejudices, likes/dislikes and morals that may differ from yours or mine. It's like the old rubric; "One man's junk is like another man's treasure". That is why judges and attorneys conduct voir dire during the jury selection process-to ferret out those prejudices and biases in order to ensure to the extent possible that both parties receive a fair trial. That is what Irigonegary was trying to accomplish with the lengthy pre-trial questionnaires-to identify those with undue knowledge, prejudices/biases, tendencies, etc.

If you have a strong dislike for attorneys, that's fine (and understandable), but it should have been disclosed to the Court during voir dire-assuming the correct questions were asked of the jury.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago


I'm sure that how jurors think about the plaintiff and defendant in a case affects their decision making, whether they're conscious of it or not.

Portraying the "estate of a dead man" most likely stirred up sympathy for the defendant which wouldn't have existed if the true parties to the lawsuit had been known.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

Like I said, it's impossible, and probably not a good thing, to take all emotion out of a courtroom, and REALLY good trial lawyers use that to their great advantage. It's the other attorney's job, and the judge's job, to make sure that it doesn't get out of hand and distract a jury from the facts they are there to decide, but emotion obviously plays a part in a trial.

Bad dog is right though; who actually ends up paying is of NO consequence for a jury. They are there to decide who did what, and to what extent. That's it. Not who ultimately writes or cashes the check.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago


I disagree.

My point is that bias already exists - it isn't introduced by knowledge of the actual parties involved.

And, the bias that existed was based on a faulty understanding - see above post.

I have no bias against lawyers, and think I was one of the more objective jurors - in fact, after talking with one of the lawyers after the case, he said I was more analytic than most jurors.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

Bias, emotion, and prejudice all exist to some degree jafs, no doubt. However, the goal is not to exacerbate it by introducing evidence that it wouldn't be the individual defendant that would have to pay, but rather his insurance company (as a for instance). Bad dog sums up why that is to be avoided in a post from a few hours ago.

We can't get rid of all potential bias, but it is the goal of the court and the voir dire process that attempts to limit it as much as possible. The presence or absence of an insurance company being involved has little to nothing to do with the FACTS of the dispute.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago


I think our system is not designed to get to truth or justice.

Both sides are looking for people who will be sympathetic to their point of view, not neutral.

The judge is merely administering the law, without regard to the quality of that law.

And, again, the only issue in our case was damages - the defendant had already admitted liability. The only thing we were deciding was how much money the plaintiff should receive.

In that process, jurors' biases were quite evident to me.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago


The FACT that insurance companies are the actual litigants seems quite relevant to me, and for the reasons I've already outlined.

It surprises me that you seem to think it's fine to mislead jurors.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

Well, unfortunately the system isn't perfect, nor am I trying to convince you that it is. You are right that each side in any case is trying to find a jury that will give them the best result. And the judge is supposed to impartially apply the law regardless of their personal opinion. If there are problems with the law itself, that's really a matter for the legislature to fix.

In the end, bias exists and always will. The point is to minimize its effects as much as is humanly possible.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

One final point:

The lawyer for the defendant was apparently an employee of the defendant's insurance company, not even working for the apparent defendant (ie. estate of dead man - his family, etc.).

It seems to me that jurors should know the actual facts of the case, which include the actual litigants and who the lawyers are actually employed by - otherwise the picture presented to the jury is a fraudulent one.

The only reason we weren't given (and weren't allowed to be given) that information is that insurance companies have lobbied Congress and persuaded them to pass legislation making it legal to mislead juries.

That doesn't make it right.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

Sorry - one more.

And, the fact that the plaintiff was black undoubtedly caused bias - I saw nothing designed to minimize that bias during the voir dire.

11/12 jurors were white.

My final point is that a system designed to find the truth and then arrive at a just outcome would be better.

mdfraz 8 years, 9 months ago

jafs, it is of NO CONSEQUENCE to the jury, to fulfill their duty, that the insurance companies might be either paying or being paid. NONE. Your job as a juror was to assess the blame for the actions of the defendant, NOT to decide who should pay for those actions. It isn't misleading jurors because it is completely irrelevant who the parties are. Actually, if it was possible, ideally we would present a body of contested facts to a jury without them knowing who was involved, and they would tell us what they think really happened. That can't happen, but the point is, as a jury, it is not your job to tell the court exactly who should be paying what. Your job is to look at disputed facts, regardless of who was involved, and weigh the conflicting evidence. To the jury, the actual parties involved should mean very little, if they are to be truly unbiased. Again, that can't happen in real life, but it's not misleading the jury if they have no need to know who is really involved.

bad_dog 8 years, 9 months ago

jafs, as I noted above, yes, biases do pre-exist. That is why lawyers do their best to identify and eliminate it by striking certain jurors during voir dire. Now as to your point whether bias is or is not introduced, let's use your own experience as a juror as an example.

Would the jury have been inherently biased against the defendant on the basis of his occupation had they been unaware he had been a lawyer? No, they could not have-that information was apparently introduced at some point during the trial. While anyone with a bias against lawyers would have held that belief both before and after the trial, it would not have been a factor in the deliberation and verdict absent its introduction at trial.

As for your comment about stirring up sympathy for the defendant by referring to his estate, while this could clearly occur, don't you think they had to account for his absence in some way? Or should the Court just let the jury think a defendant didn't care enough to show up?

Anyway, these topics make for interesting discussions and insight for all involved. Juries are composed of persons accompanied by all that is good and bad about us as humans - emotions, biases, strengths and frailties.

ebyrdstarr 8 years, 9 months ago

Jafs, the bottom line is that the presence of insurance companies in the case isn't relevant to the actual facts of the issue before you. It isn't relevant because it should not in any way, shape, or form alter the verdict that the jury renders.

The fact that you are so insistent that the jury should have known about the "true" parties to the case makes me think that your verdict would have been different had you known. Thus, you are proving that the judge was right to keep this information away from the jury.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 9 months ago

"The fact that you are so insistent that the jury should have known about the “true” parties to the case makes me think that your verdict would have been different had you known. Thus, you are proving that the judge was right to keep this information away from the jury."

How dare you use logic on this blog! Go away!

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago


I completely disagree, of course.

I think that because of sympathies incurred by the fraudulent presentation that the defendant was a dead man's estate that the result was less than it should have been, and might have been, without that presentation.

It is remarkable to me that nobody else considers the misleading presentation of the litigants to be a problem.

And, md, I was coming to a similar conclusion myself about simply knowing the facts - that might remove bias in a way that our current system does not and can not.

But, if we are to know about the parties involved, we should know the truth about that.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

I think that knowing the truth helps one to analyze/interpret the evidence.

For example, knowing that the defense attorney was an employee of the insurance company would help when considering his actions in court.

When he paraded around indignantly about "suing a dead man's estate", for example, most would be able to see through that farce and understand his true motivation, which was simply to save the insurance company money.

Bottom line: The current system rewards those who are good at playing the game.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

And again, the judge didn't keep the information from us - insurance companies have persuaded Congress to pass legislation disallowing juries from knowing that insurance companies are the actual litigants in cases like these.

Doesn't anybody else see a problem with this??

bad_dog 8 years, 9 months ago

jafs, one more try by me and then I'm out...

The defendant in your case was the estate of the decedent, given he was no longer alive. The very fact you state that: "...the result was less than it should have been, and might have been, without that presentation" supports the rationale why jurors are not informed about the existence of insurance.

As you know, the initial legal dispute was between the plaintiff and the defendant. The defendant apparently had insurance to cover some or all of his alleged liability. What possible difference can the presence or absence of insurance have to the absolute, real-time monetary value of the case? Answer? It has none whatsoever. The defendant either was or was not liable to the plaintiff. The amount of damages were what they were regardless whether the defendant had insurance. It simply is not relevant to the apportionment of liability or the amount of damages. While you may feel slighted, with all due respect it has nothing to do whether you knew the the truth about the case.


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