I love working with jurors. They are upstanding citizens doing their civic duty, often at great sacrifice. However, like everything else in the criminal justice system, jurors can be unpredictable.
The IRS Investigator
I had just begun questioning the one hundred prospective jurors in a serious felony case. One of my first questions is: “Do you know anyone involved in this case?” A woman juror raised her hand and said, “I am a criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service. I am currently investigating that defense lawyer for criminal tax fraud.” Oops. I wish she had asked to speak to me in private because I had to excuse all one hundred jurors and start over.
Prospective jurors are often nervous. Sometimes they misspeak. I asked an older juror what he did for a living. He quickly responded, “I’m retarded!” After everyone stopped laughing, he added, “Sorry, I meant retired.”
The Deadbeat Wife
While picking a jury I asked a man about his family situation. He said he was married with six small young children. I asked, “What does your wife do?” He replied, “Nothing.” I mildly reprimanded him, and I threatened to call his wife and tell her what he had said. I know that my wife, with our six children, works a lot harder that I do.
The Cowboy Clown Juror
I was just about to take the bench, and start jury selection on a criminal case, when my bailiff informed me that one of the members of the jury pool was wearing a huge black foam rubber cowboy hat, and he had refused to remove the hat. I sighed and thought to myself, “Nothing is ever simple!”
I took the bench and politely asked the juror to remove his hat. The juror responded, “It is part of my religion.” I firmly asked, “Are you trying to tell me that a foam rubber cowboy is recognized religious attire?” He replied, “It is of my religion.”
I ordered him to remove his hat or remove himself from the courtroom. When he declined to remove the hat, I ordered my bailiff to escort him out. As he left, the other jurors shook their heads in disbelief.
For the next week, the excluded juror picketed the courthouse. He wore a sandwich board proclaiming that “Judge London is anti-religious and unfair to jurors.”
(Little did he know that I was serving as an LDS bishop at the time. He also didn’t know that I taught an advanced Constitutional Law class on Law and Religion. He also didn’t know that I was a recognized “Authority on Freedom of Religion” (“Nexus: A Journal of Opinion,” Chapman Law School, Fall 1997, p. 203))
Finally, the juror got tired of picketing the courthouse and left.
I thought that was the last of it. However, the juror filed a lawsuit against me in federal court alleging that I had violated his federal civil rights. The federal judge dismissed the case.
The Young Inexperienced Male District Attorney versus The “Pregnant” Juror
I was presiding over a criminal case, and we were in the middle of jury selection. It was the district attorney’s (D.A.) turn to question the jurors. The young, single, and inexperienced D.A. focused on a woman juror, who appeared to me to be overweight. Here is the transcript:
D.A.: “Do you think you can you sit comfortably throughout this trial?”
D.A.: “Do you need to take a lot of breaks?”
D.A.: “Do you have any doctor’s appointments scheduled this week?”
D.A.: “If you need to take a break or feel uncomfortable at all, will you let us know.”
D.A.: “How’s the pregnancy.”
Juror (with a scowl and death stare): “I’m not pregnant.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. There is no recovery from this situation, unless it is to apologize. Instead, the D.A. quickly moved on to the next juror as if nothing had happened. Sometimes, that is the best approach. Ultimately, the D.A. excused the juror after making an enemy out of our her.
(Other cases: http://www.londonedition.net)