Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rocking the boat . . .

From Richard Cole's November 9, 2004 trial report.

Jurors began the day by looking at Peterson's 14-foot aluminum fishing boat, which was brought to the underground parking garage near the Redwood City courthouse.

Delucchi gave permission to some jurors to enter the vessel -- and some of them began rocking the boat back and forth on its trailer, apparently testing it's stability.

Some analysts said the judge made a serious error that could result in overturning the verdict if Peterson is convicted.

"That is an experiment, and jurors are not allowed to do experiments with the evidence," said Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. "It's definitely reversible error."

But Smith said that it would depend on whether the experiment influenced jurors to convict.

"It's much more likely in a close circumstantial case," Smith said.

Of course we know that a guilty verdict did occur. It remains to be seen whether the CA Supreme Court will rule this obvious lapse of judgment on Delucchi's part to be reversible error.

Cole also reported on other problems with the jury.

Jurors in the Peterson trial listened glumly yesterday as the judge admonished them to deliberate in good faith after disputes broke out in the jury room.

"We've been here for five and a half months," Judge Alfred Delucchi pleaded with the 12 jurors and five alternates, then reread some jury instructions.

"It is rarely helpful for a juror, on entering the jury room, to express an emphatic opinion on the case or to announce a determination to stand for a certain verdict," the judge emphasized.

Jurors, who previous smiled and joked both inside and outside of court, were grim as they filed into the courtroom to receive Delucchi's instruction.

Juror 6 -- a Half Moon Bay paramedic -- was the person cited by media organizations as the person at the center of the controversy.

Analysts said the incident did not necessarily mean a hung jury in Scott Peterson's double murder trial, but called it a bad omen.

"Anecdotally I would tell you that more often than not when a jury starts down this road, they never recover," said former San Mateo County homicide prosecutor Chuck Smith.

Yesterday's instructions were apparently the result of a complaint by the jury foreman that a juror was not deliberating in good faith. But there was no indication whether the juror favored conviction or acquittal.

The foreman, a scholarly doctor-lawyer, nodded in agreement as Delucchi reminded jurors of their duty to deliberate.

After jurors filed out of the courtroom, Delucchi told the attorneys that next time he will read the panel a special instruction given to deadlock juries.

But that wasn't necessary, as almost in the blink of an eye the doctor-attorney foreman was replaced by the paramedic and then resigned from the jury. A guilty verdict came in short order after that. I truly hope that one day an honest juror will tell us what happened in those deliberation, what really went on.


Bruce Dombrowski said...

my guess is the paramedic came in and expressed his belief in scotts guilt right away...wonder if they took a vote first, or he was just verbalizing his beliefs right away, before a vote.....

Burkey said...

I'm guessing this is a reference to three options being written on the white board: Acquittal, Guilty, Hung, and Juror 8 says "you can erase acquittal."

I'd sure like to hear more about it but there's such a high level of fear I doubt it will happen, plus no one wants to expose a process where they've been criticized. On the one hand they didn't get enough information, on the other it's hard for me to get how the jurors could accept the process of their getting picked off one by one and just think that was ok. However, everyone except the defense acted like it was just fine.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

High level of fear?

Burkey said...

Exactly...fear of humiliation in front of the whole world if they were accused of wrongdoing that got them kicked off, fear of having spent all those months listening to testimony only to be told they weren't going to have a say...very traumatic stuff. Heck of a way to be thanked for your civic duty..