Question for anyone who's been on jury duty in the last couple of years

As a criminal defense attorney (a public defender), I am always interested in what jurors have to say about their experiences. There have been a couple of “jury duty” threads recently, but I didn’t want to hijack them by asking about this.

 Were you satisfied with the amount of physical or forensic evidence intrduced by the state, or would you have preferred to see more?  Fingerprints, fiber analysis, DNA where it was relevant, etc.  

 There seems to be a trend in the jurors on my cases to want to see more physical evidence- a lot of people refer to it as "the CSI effect".  I have noticed that the police investigators where I practice have been making more of an effort to get physical evidence, and if they are unsuccessful, at least they can say they tried, and they take away my indignant "THEY DIDN"T EVEN TRY!" argument.  

 So, tell me about your experience.  Would you like to have seen more physical evidence?  What more do you think could have been done for the state to prove their case?

Well last year I was on a murder case. The defense argued that the dead kid was killed because the defendant saw that he had a gun and fired out of self defense. But the weapon was no where to be found, so the defendant claimed that he had picked up the gun (that he claims the dead kid was holding, after it mysteriously found it’s way to the outside of the locked pickup that the dead kid was found in. The dead kid’s truck was also found still in Reverse gear and had rolled into a wall as he apparantly tried to get away from the danger that defendant claims the dead kid was causing.)

There was no gun residue at all in the truck with the dead kid, and no evidence that he ever had a gun.

They did have a ballistics/gun expert testify to that fact as well as a police detective, and for the record the dectective did not do a great job in his testimony, the defense attorney clearly rattled him a bit…But regardless there was simply no evidence to back up the defense theory that the dead kid was trying to kill the defendant first.

A credible witness or proof of the dead kid’s gun would have been a good start?
I dont watch CSI, but I thouroughly enjoyed the entire process, and found the testimony/evidence to be sufficent for a guilty or murder verdict.

But I think in general, the more physical evidence the better.

Well, since attorneys want to be paid $$$ for their time if you have a question for them I don’t want to give you any info until you pay me for my time :wink: .

I was on a murder trial around Christmas. There were about 8 members of the jury who were obsessed with fingerprints. Absolutely obsessed.

The facts were essentially these: three men broke into a crackhouse basement. Two men, armed with one shotgun, went upstairs, robbed the drug dealer, and shot him. The man who remained downstairs guarded two resident crackheads from going upstairs. The two crackheads testified to what they saw, the man downstairs was found guilty of murder, robbery, and other crimes, and agreed to testify against the two men who went upstairs. There was one trial being conducted for both these defendants. The shotgun was never recovered.

As I said before, just over half the jury fretted for three days about the lack of fingerprint evidence to actually place the two defendants at the scene of the crime. For two days, they did not consider the eyewitness statements reliable unless they were backed up by fingerprint evidence, even though I repeatedly pointed out that the two defendants were known to frequent the crackhouse, and the mere presence of a fingerprint by them in the house wouldn’t prove that they were in the house at the time the dealer was shot. For another day, they simply wished that there were fingerprints.

In the end, we convicted one defendant, and we were hung on the other.

Thinking about it more, these jurors seemed very interested in the medical examiner’s testimony on the cause of death, although I’m not sure whether it was simply or morbid fascintation or if they thought the evidence had some bearing on the guilt or innocence of the accused. For me, it was simply evidence that the drug dealer had, in fact, been killed by a shotgun.

Major civil trial (hundreds of millions of dollars at stake) in my instance, but some of it may be of use in criminal cases. Or not - I dunno, but here it is:

The first thing that struck me, and stuck with me, was that both the defense and the plaintiffs went to great lengths to educate the jury on the whys and wherefors, and most especially on the underlying technology. They told stories with the material they were presenting, and each side tried to very carefully build an identification between the jury and their principle in how they told the story. They were very careful to not directly insult their opponents, but at the same time, presenting them as selfish, unprincipled, or ungrateful by way of insinuation.

Next thing that struck me was the ‘harping on a theme.’ Each side had a theory, a theme, and they stuck to it, returning to it time and again over the two weeks of testimony. With each witness called, there was some directed attempt to focus the testimony on either that side’s theory, or to discredit the other side’s theory, but only occasionally were both tried at the same time. Simplicity in focus was the manner that both sides used - They rarely asked the jury to try and absorb more than one concept per witness. Cross-examination was used as often to muddle the focus of a witness’ testimony as it was to impeach the witness or discredit the opposition’s theory. Re-direct would then be used to to refocus the witness’ testimony, or to repair the witness’ credibility.

There were a few ‘Perry Mason’ moments, and a couple witnesses were demolished, but for the most part, it was quite civil and polite. In two of the ‘Perry Mason’ moments, the lawyers found that they’d mouse-trapped a lion, and they got pounded by the witness. Those witnesses were paid great attention by the jury, and had very high credibility.

Both the plantiff’s and the defendant’s lawyers built a strong foundation, and moved towards their conclusion one step at a time.

In the end, though, the defence’s own theme came back to bite them in the ass. The case really was about “living up to the deal that they made, not the one that they intended.” Be careful which theme you harp on - The jury may hear you, and give you something other than what you wanted.

My case was robbery and assault with a “dangerous instrument”. Basically the defendant put a cab driver in a choke hold and stole his money. In the stuggle the victim received some scratches to his forearm.

The robbery part we all agreed on quickly based on the victim’s testimony, the fact that the defendant left his wallet in the cab, and video from the apartment building the defendant ran into showing the defendant running into it as described by the victim.

The only evidence for the dangerous instrument was the victim’s testimony, which was vague in this area, and pictures of a couple of scratches, none of which required medical attention (the victim refused). In the end we couldn’t determine with a sufficient degree of certainty that the victim was indeed assaulted with a dangerous instrument.

So we voted guilty for IIRC 3rd degree robbery (the lesser included) and not guilty for the dangerous instrument part which would have made it 1st degree robbery.

One thing that frustrated us (but really had no bearing on the case) was that there was a functioning camera in the cab and between the cab driver, three detectives, and the cab company, nobody saved the images.

Another twist was that the previously ambulatory (remember he ran into the building) defendant was in a wheelchair for the Grand Jury and jury trial and this confused the victim, who was Dominican and spoke through an interpreter and kept referring to the wheelchair-bound defendant as a mongoloid.