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Old 03-30-2007, 09:49 AM
psychonaut is offline
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Bribing juries after the verdict (operant conditioning)


Provided that no promise of payment is made in advance of a verdict, is it legal for a defendant to pay jurors upon his acquittal? If so, what's preventing wealthy defendants from establishing a precedent whereby juries which acquit are rewarded? That is, say one wealthy defendant pays his acquitting jury with, say, $50,000 per juror; other wealthy defendants might start to do the same after their trials. Eventually it would become common knowledge that if you're a juror trying a wealthy defendant, you have a good chance (but obviously no guarantee) of being rewarded for acquitting him. This would lead to a situation where juries would start acquitting wealthy defendants simply in hopes of obtaining payment, rather than on the basis of the law and the evidence presented at trial.

On the flip side, what's preventing wealthy civil plaintiffs and wealthy crime victims from establishing a similar precedent for payment of juries which convict the defendant? (And please don't answer "the market system"—it's rare that both the defendant and plaintiff/victim have equal purchasing power.)

Again, keep in mind that no promise of payment is made in advance of the trial. Payment is made only afterwards, and then not necessarily in every case, but often enough that juries come to expect it implicitly. I think this is pretty much what psychologists would refer to as operant conditioning, except that it's carried out on a population rather than an individual.
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:30 AM
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Interesting. It would certainly lead to fewer people evading jury duty.
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
Again, keep in mind that no promise of payment is made in advance of the trial. Payment is made only afterwards, and then not necessarily in every case, but often enough that juries come to expect it implicitly. I think this is pretty much what psychologists would refer to as operant conditioning, except that it's carried out on a population rather than an individual.
Heh, tipping the jury.....
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Old 03-30-2007, 12:32 PM
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Aren't jurors relatively anonymous to prevent this from happening?

By anonymous, I mean that the parties to the case do not have contact information for the jurors, so they would not be able to have any post-case interaction.
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Old 03-30-2007, 12:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Aren't jurors relatively anonymous to prevent this from happening?

By anonymous, I mean that the parties to the case do not have contact information for the jurors, so they would not be able to have any post-case interaction.
The anonymity can be waived by the juror herself, as evidenced by the books written by jurors involved in famous trials. Presumably a juror would voluntarily reveal her identity if it were announced that a large payment to her was pending.
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Old 03-30-2007, 05:41 PM
Valgard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Aren't jurors relatively anonymous to prevent this from happening?

By anonymous, I mean that the parties to the case do not have contact information for the jurors, so they would not be able to have any post-case interaction.
When I served on a jury part of the voire dire (jury selection) was that we all got up, stated our full name, city of residence and job. Unless everybody was named John Smith it'd be pretty easy to track down the jurors.

Jury selection was done with all attorneys and the defendant present.
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Old 03-30-2007, 12:54 PM
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What would be the incentive for any particular plaintiff to follow through on the deal? I suppose it might pay off if he or she were planning an extended life of crime, but why pay up if you've already got your aquittal and the precedent you create is only going to help someone else?
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Old 03-30-2007, 12:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cher3
What would be the incentive for any particular plaintiff to follow through on the deal? I suppose it might pay off if he or she were planning an extended life of crime, but why pay up if you've already got your aquittal and the precedent you create is only going to help someone else?
Well, let's say you have a gentleman's agreement amongst all the members of your particular white-collar criminal conspiracy to perpetuate this jury-tipping system.
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Old 03-30-2007, 01:03 PM
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IIRC didn't either the OJ or Wacko Jacko juries get invited to a "not guilty" party?
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cher3
What would be the incentive for any particular plaintiff to follow through on the deal? I suppose it might pay off if he or she were planning an extended life of crime, but why pay up if you've already got your aquittal and the precedent you create is only going to help someone else?
It's not necessarily only going to help someone else; it could help you as well in the event of any future prosecution. The likelihood of you getting prosecuted again is very low, but you can think of it in the same way you would purchasing an insurance policy. You, and everyone else, pay into the scheme, despite the low probability of any one person actually needing the protection it affords, but everyone who does end up prosecuted benefits.
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:20 PM
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Keep in mind also that if one is very wealthy compared to the average citizen, then one need spend only a pittance, relatively speaking, to bribe jurors of average wealth.
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:49 PM
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It was illegal in some states as early as 1916, according to a Case Note in the Yale Law Journal http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=004...3E2.0.CO%3B2-H (I can read the actual article through another service). In the case described, Ellis v. Emerson, 147 Atl. 761 (Me. 1929), after the plaintiff won a trial, he invited the jury out to dinner, after they accepted, he learned of the statute and revoked his offer. The trial court granted a new trial and the appellate court affirmed the decision.

New York's statute apparently did not prohibit this conduct, which is why it ultimately got amended:

Quote:
After being acquitted of insurance fraud in Federal court, boxing promoter Don King gifted twelve jurors with a trip to the Evander Holyfield-Butter Bean title fight in Georgia as well as an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway in the Bahamas with their spouses. Soon thereafter, a talk show host questioned Don King concerning his reputation for treating jurors well. Mr. King admitted treating jurors to such amenities as trips to London, the Bahamas and to boxing matches. He responded, "that's democracy. They deserve it. They deserve more than the seven dollars they get for a day." Mr. King, like Mr. Hirschfeld, is no stranger to litigation. In fact, the Bahamas incident led one reporter to comment, "if you're on a jury in a Don King case, you know you're guaranteed a holiday if he's found not guilty!"
Summer, Erica, "Post-Trial Jury Payoffs: A Jury Tampering Loophole?" 15 St. John's J.L. Comm. 353 (2001) (citing numerous examples of juror gratiuties from New York).
  #13  
Old 03-30-2007, 01:17 PM
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In short, once someone thinks of it, no, it's explicitly NOT legal:

From 2001:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpag...hfeld%2C%20Abe

Quote:
Gov. George E. Pataki signed a bill yesterday that bans gifts and gratuities to juries after a case in which a wealthy defendant offered jurors $2,500 each after his acquittal. The law, effective in November, makes a misdemeanor of ''providing a juror with a gratuity,'' punishable by as much as a year in jail. The law is a response to the case of Abe Hirschfeld, above, who offered checks of $2,500 last year to each of 10 members of a New York City jury after they deadlocked over whether he was guilty of tax fraud.
In the absence of such a law, if it were done really blatently, I wouldn't be surprised if a DA tried to make a charge like jury tampering or obstruction of justice stick anyway. It may not apply to THAT particular case, but by establishing precedent, it certainly screws up the objectivity of juries in future cases. Long before it got to be expected by juries, it would be stomped out, hard. If the members of the "gentlemen's agreement" could be identified as an organization, RICO could very well apply, too.

Last edited by yabob; 03-30-2007 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 03-30-2007, 01:20 PM
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It needs to be blatantly against the law in all states, and as need be it should be specifically mentioned before a trial starts. Otherwise, someone on the Phil Spector jury might be thinking a not guilty vote with earn them a big payday, and ignore the facts of the case.
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yabob
In short, once someone thinks of it, no, it's explicitly NOT legal:

From 2001:http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpag...hfeld%2C%20Abe
Quote:
Gov. George E. Pataki signed a bill yesterday that bans gifts and gratuities to juries after a case in which a wealthy defendant offered jurors $2,500 each after his acquittal. The law, effective in November, makes a misdemeanor of ''providing a juror with a gratuity,'' punishable by as much as a year in jail. The law is a response to the case of Abe Hirschfeld, above, who offered checks of $2,500 last year to each of 10 members of a New York City jury after they deadlocked over whether he was guilty of tax fraud.
It seems to me that, provided the precedent for paying jurors already existed, this law would be ineffective in cases where the wealthy defendant unquestionably committed a crime for which he faces over 10 years in prison. (By "unquestionably", I mean that it's practically inconceivable that any jury weighing the evidence would vote to acquit, such as when the defendant was caught red-handed.) Serving 10 years for issuing gratuities to 10 jurors would be much nicer than serving 20 years, or serving a life sentence, or being executed, for the original offence.

Of course, the law would discourage the precedent from being established in the first place; while a multimillionnaire may not balk at spending a few ten thousand to pay a jury, few of them would be willing to go to prison just to start a favourable trend.
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:43 PM
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There are some people who want to "do the right thing", irrespective of any potential gain on their part. There are also people who would consider the idea of getting a "tip" after the trial insulting and may even be more likely to convict. Thinking something like, "who is this rich jerk thinking he's above the law just because he's got money? I'll show him."

So I think we'd end up with more hung juries, rather than acquittals, IMHO.

J.
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Old 03-30-2007, 06:43 PM
Gfactor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
I think this is pretty much what psychologists would refer to as operant conditioning, except that it's carried out on a population rather than an individual.
[Quibble]Behavioral psychologists like Skinner and Jack Michael (http://www.abainternational.org/saba...ba_michael.asp) would point out that operant conditioning involves the increase in the behavior immediately preceding the presentation of reinforcement). In most cases, we are talking about what Jack Michael always described as more complicated verbal or rule-governed behavior. Although, I'll acknowledge that the distinction is a bit murky and you can find references to rule-governed behavior as "operant behavior." See, e.g., http://www.bfsr.org/BSI_11_1/11_1JMoo.pdf If it was truly operant conditioning at work, the behavior would be described as increasing in frequency because of past contingencies of reinforcement--not because jurors expect it. [/Quibble] Nevertheless, I don't dispute your claim that such a plan might have the effect that you describe, if it was legal. As you can see, it might be legal in some places and not in others.
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Old 03-30-2007, 06:50 PM
Gfactor is offline
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The Maine statute I talked about before:

Quote:
If either party, in a cause in which a verdict is returned, during the same term of the court, before or after the trial, gives to any of the jurors who try the cause any treat or gratuity or purposely introduces among the papers delivered to the jury when they retire with the cause, any papers which have any connection with it but were not offered in evidence, the court on motion of the adverse party may set aside the verdict and order a new trial.
http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statu...14sec1353.html
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Old 03-30-2007, 08:47 PM
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Quote:
It's not necessarily only going to help someone else; it could help you as well in the event of any future prosecution. The likelihood of you getting prosecuted again is very low, but you can think of it in the same way you would purchasing an insurance policy. You, and everyone else, pay into the scheme, despite the low probability of any one person actually needing the protection it affords, but everyone who does end up prosecuted benefits.
But then you're engaging in an action with the intent of influencing the outcome of a future trial - even if you and the people you're paying are not personally involved in that trial. So you're tampering with the outcome of that trial.
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