Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jessica Lunzford Trial

So I am a couple days behind on the Jessica Lunsford case and I thought I should do a short post to catch everyone up on what is going on inside the court room.
Monday the second round of jury selection began with 67 of the 71 jurors who made it passed the first round returning for questioning to see if they will make it to the next round. The judge did some business on Monday, there was a concern about the pencils that Couey has been using to colour with during the trial. The prosecution had asked that the pencils be taken away because they saw that they amounted to unsworn testimony. This in regards to plans by the defense team to say that Couey is retarded and cannot be put to death. The judge let the pencils stay because, he said they are a part of his natural habit and not a trick. He added that if it had been something like finger paints, he would have said no. The simple reality is that this man is on trial for his life, and this is something that helps him.
Right away two members of the jury pool were eliminated, one because he had overheard information about the trial and the other for an inability to apply the standards of innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutor asked the jurors a number of questions relating to their experiences with crimes, trails, the police, any other jury duty service and for an unknown reason what their favorite baseball team was. One juror stated she had been a victim of crime before and Prosecutor Peter Magrino said he would want to ask more questions about that later away from other jurors.
Prosecutor Ric Ridgway had the task of asking the jurors how they feel about the death penality. Since this is a death penality case, the jurors will have to be able to give that as a sentence, this is where some who disagree with the death penality will be released from the jury. One lady was released today because she said that when one person kills another, that person must also die, which would indicate that being overly pro-death could get you removed from the jury as well.
Defense attorney Alan Fanter next asked the jury about family members or other people they might know that are police officers. He asked if they believed that sometimes police officers make mistakes and sometimes they arrest an innocent person. One of the jurors actually used to be a police officer and he agree that police make mistakes and sometimes they arrest the wrong person. He told about how there were times someone he had arrested was released after a trial and he understood that was just the way the system was. It seems unlikely that the former officer will remain on the jury, one side or the other going to want him off, he could either undermine the state by his suggestions of police making mistakes, or undermine the defense by siding with the police in the case.
Some of the media in the court room were upset that the judge was releasing jurors and not giving reasons to the public and the media gathered there. The judge had questioned a number of jurors at the bench where the media could not hear their conversation and then released them without a stated reason. One media outlet objected to the practice but the judge said he would continue with it. Some of the jurors released were ones who had said that they did not agree with the death penality.
At the end of the day on Monday 11 juror had made it to the next round. In order to be taken off the jurory at this point the prosecution or the defense must use one of their 10 peremptory challenges.
The defense started off the quesions Tuesday, after the issue of private discussions between the jurors and the judge was once again set aside with the judge affirming that he would continue that practice as he saw fit. Another small issue was resolved when the judge supported a motion by the defense to ban prosecution from entering the airspace above the defense's table with any part of their bodies. This relates to an incident yesterday when Prosecutor Ridgway made a pointing gesture at Couey and extended his arm over part of the table of the defense.
While there have been a number of stories that the court has heard from the jury members, one lady today had a particularly sad and related one. It turns out that her daughter had been molested by her husband, the childs father, when she was younger. This juror was released from service.
It was assumed that the mental health issue would be a part of the post-trial discussion, but since the defense has added the doctor who will testify to Couey's mental state to the guilt part of the trial, it would appear it will be brought up during the trial. Defense attorney Ridgway has been asking jurors tuesday if they know of anyone with a mental health issue.
At the end of the day on Tuesday there are still 11 jurors, some of the jurors who made it through yesterdays questions would appear to have been released by a peremptory challenge from either the prosecution of the defense. The Defense and the Prosecution each have 10 peremptory challenges that they can use, these are releases that they don't have to provide a reason for, in order to appeal the defense must use all 10.
During the questioning jurors had been asked about possible mitgating factors in a crime and they had a variety of them: Abuse as a child, Some people just do it to do it, pshycologial, emotionally unstable, environment, lack of education, desperation, self-defense, money.

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