Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jury Nullification and the Lone Black Female.

It appears that the sole Black juror on a panel deadlocked along racial lines lied to win a seat on the jury and then set out to exact revenge on law enforcement by serving as the spoiler in the trial of an alleged drug chief serving as his own lawyer, some of her fellow jurors said Monday.

Jurors in the trial of Johnnie "Bro" Martin walked out of U.S. District Court with nothing to show for nine days of work but a mistrial.

"She made a mockery of the system," one juror said of the Black woman whom members of the panel said refused to even consider what the rest of the group believed was overwhelming evidence of Martin's guilt.

Although they declined to be publicly identified, jurors outraged over the outcome of a trial in which Martin's defense rested on the notion that racist law enforcers had framed him confirmed the panel had split 11 to 1 in every vote cast during the roughly four days of deliberations.

The lone hold-out was a Black woman who, when questioned during the jury selection process, assured federal prosecutors that she harbored no ill will over the imprisonment of her sister in a drug case. Asked if her sister deserved her fate, the woman answered, "Absolutely."

Fellow jurors interviewed after U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips declared a mistrial said the woman lied.
"She never should have been on there in the first place," one juror said. "From the beginning, she kept saying her sister was in jail for selling drugs and the cops set her up, and she could not believe any police officer no matter what."

Prosecutors sought to remove the woman from the panel after learning that her daughter had been arrested on a marijuana charge by the police in 2006. She did not reveal that arrest, for which she posted bond, during the jury selection process.

Phillips refused, saying there was "no evidence of misconduct on the part of any juror in this case."
He noted the woman revealed her sister's drug conviction. He did not address, however, Plowell's complaint that the woman failed to reveal her daughter's arrest.

Instead, Phillips chastised the newspaper for reporting a racial division among the jurors.
"That's not what the note said," Phillips said of a message from the panel to the judge on Thursday in which jurors reported claims of racism were contributing to the deadlock.

The judge insisted that the note's statement that claims of racism had been raised during jury deliberations did not mean the panel was divided along racial lines.

"I would ask the newspaper to be accurate in its reporting," Phillips said from the bench.
Jurors, however, said the woman accused white members of the panel of being racist, prompting the note to Phillips.
"It offended me," one juror said.
The woman at issue refused comment when approached by a reporter and walked out of the courthouse alone. Fellow jurors followed minutes later as a group.

Martin, a convicted drug dealer from Boston,MA had opted to serve as his own attorney on charges he moved his drug-peddling network to Knoxville,TN and set up armed stash houses serving a smorgasbord of drugs ranging from $500,000 in cocaine every month to marijuana to Ecstasy. He also was accused of plotting to kill a key witness against him.

He insisted he was being framed by racist cops and lying "degenerates." The voice on secretly recorded phone conversations authorities said he had with various underlings was not his, he told jurors.

The lone Black juror on the panel bought into Martin's defense hook, line and sinker, fellow jurors said.
"You bring up the wiretaps and she'd say it wasn't his voice," one juror said. "She said the (alleged co-conspirators) were lying, and you couldn't believe the police officers. The whole time she talked about how unfairly her sister was treated."

The panel did find Martin guilty of one of 17 charges against him, deeming him guilty of being a felon in possession of an assault rifle. It was the sole charge not directly tied to the drug conspiracy.

"Anything that had to do with the drugs, she wouldn't even consider it," a fellow juror said.
Although prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to retry him, Jennings announced in court he and Plowell would file formal notice today of their intent to seek a new trial.

Martin, who has boasted from the day of his arrest that he would win the case and openly taunted Jennings at an earlier hearing, remains jailed. As he was led out of the courtroom by the U.S. Marshals Service, Martin looked back at Jennings, smirked and said, "Checkmate."

Jury nullification refers to a rendering of a verdict by a trial jury, disagreeing with the instructions by the judge concerning what the law is, or whether such law is applicable to the case, taking into account all of the evidence presented. Although a jury's refusal relates only to the particular case before it, if a pattern of such verdicts develops, it can have the practical effect of disabling the enforcement of that position on what the law is or how it should be applied. Juries are reluctant to render a verdict contrary to law, but a conflict may emerge between what judges and the public from whom juries are drawn hold the law to be, or the legitimacy of a law itself. A succession of such verdicts may signal an unwillingness by the public to accept the law given them and may render it a "dead-letter" or bring about its repeal. The jury system was established because it was felt that a panel of citizens, drawn at random from the community, and serving for too short a time to be corrupted, would be more likely to render a just verdict, through judging both the accused and the law, than officials who may be unduly influenced to follow merely the established law. Jury nullification is a reminder that the right to trial by one's peers affords the public an opportunity to take a dissenting view about the justness of a statute or official practices.
Notwithstanding perceived righteous applications of jury nullification, it bears noting that this verdict anomaly can also occur simply as a device to absolve a defendant of culpability. Sympathy, bias or prejudice can influence some jurors to wholly disregard evidence and instruction in favor of a sort of "jury forgiveness."
“ I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution. ”
—Thomas Jefferson, 1789 letter to Thomas Paine


ichbinalj said...

XandrdC said; Yet another fine example of the farse that is trial-by-jury! As long as emotional, subjective, legally-ignorant gutter-cloggers continue to "judge their peers," the entire judicial system will be a mockery. It's about time we dump the archaic common law procedures of jolly ol' England and institute a civil law system whereby a tribunal of legally-adept and highly impartial judges determine guilt or innocence. I don't want a plumber in the White House and I don't want an auto mechanic telling me I broke the law... and in the same fashion, I don't want a lawyer building my house. Leave each job to the professionals therefore trained.

ichbinalj said...

volunteerdee said: You just never know what a juror might do. They'll answer all the questions correctly or to the liking of all involved but when it comes down to it they can fool anyone. This case just shows that. With her family history of arrests for drugs she should have never been allowed on this jury. His attorney knew that....he got what he wanted, a mistrial. Now as tax payers we have to pay for another trial.

ichbinalj said...

jrwebb said : The State has the burden of proving its case to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty. Clearly, that didn't happen here - so obviously, the jury is tainted, right? The government is always diligent and righteous and tells the truth and therefor, should always win, right?

How many times has the government just been out-lawyered and instead of admitting that they got their butts kicked, blamed rogue jurors, or the sun was in their eyes, or they tripped over a rock. Geez ... stop whining, suck it up, and argue your case - or don't. Either way, the government is not entitled to win its argument by virtue of being the government.

ichbinalj said...

whitey wrote: The elephant in the room is slavery and segregation. You come right down to it and I bet alot of Blacks still feel like sticking it to the white man for the railroaded trials during the days of Jim Crow. I believe that explains alot about the attitude that Blacks take toward crime in their community. It's about retribution. White people got away with lynching and burning churches and jury's of their peers let them free. Blacks are trying to get a little pay back in today’s society while white guilt over the mentioned travesties forces us to keep quite now. I mean can you really say that this is about retribution and not be a racist?

ichbinalj said...

Tigermando weighed in with: This women had "payback" in mind and she was the only holdout of the jury. She acted as a bought juror and should be tried for purjury and throwing a trial. She is ignorant, stuck on stupid and heaps coals of fire on Negro's with "her" racisum.
She obstructed justice and should be arrested and tried by a white jury. See how that works.

ichbinalj said...

chrisvol said: Black.....white........educated.........not educated.
Get real. Do the crime and pay for it. It doesn't matter what the race of the woman was causing the hung jury.
Quit relying on the tragedies of the past to rest your pathetic self on today. What are you truly doing about racism? You want to whine about how your ancestors were mistreated. They were mistreated and MAYBE by my ancestors. I really don't have a clue. Regardless, I didn't mistreat them and I certainly don't consider myself a racist.

Moving forward to today's time, many of us are not racist. Many are racist. However, don't blame me for your ancestors past and you can't take claim to the past of what was your ancestors.

If, and only if he is guilty, then he can rot in a cell. In the meantime, please take your racial whining to a community that wants to listen to it. We want to move forward and quit pampering people for not having the guts to do an honest day's work.

ichbinalj said...

wesley514 said: The penalties for drugs is way too steep and the "war" on drugs is a joke but that does not change the fact that if you choose that lifestyle you know that you could end up in prison for the rest of your life. Especially if you are repeat offender and guns are involved. That's the way it is and if you choose that lifestyle you can not complain if you get caught. Just like murderers and what not, there are plenty of drug dealers that get away with it too. Let's not pretend like they don't. Money plays a bigger part in the judicial system than color does. If you can afford a good attorney most of the time you can get out of it.

Reply to this post

ichbinalj said...

BigManVolFan said; I am not racist in any way, form, or fashion but what way could this situation be described? The only Black juror caused a deadlock 11-1? The defendant is Black. She (the juror) would not consider any thing the other jurors tried to say or show her. This woman had a racial, bias motive against the system and as a tax paying citizen, she should be punished to the fullest extent of the Federal Judicial System.

ichbinalj said...

wishiwas said: You know guys, I've been reading most all of the comments. This is the first time I've ever replied. I do not consider myself an intellectual, but I do have some common sense. I hope I never get selected for jury duty. We are all pushed into a room, hearded like cattle, and told what an important civic duty everyone in the room is fulfilling. Behind closed doors, the trial lawyers, the judges and other members of the court talk about the jury and how stupid they all are. It is really quite a humiliating experience. This case is not one to change the overall consensus of most everyone who reads these articles or listens to the news. Please be kind, I know how you all like for spelling and grammar to be correct...lol.;)

ichbinalj said...

zoraker said: Let's not so rapidly rush to changing our justice system. So a drug dealer has to go through a second trial because one woman refuses to be impartial. All it costs us is money. As long as the DA is confident in his case, he can re-try the individual. The next jury, faced with the evidence presented, will likely convict.

The fact that one person can hold up a trial and derail a conviction is one of the best parts of our system. It is the only thing that keeps the prosecution on their toes and keeps cops even a little honest.

If juries convicted based on the word of authorities everyone arrested would be convicted and our jails would in fact be full of innocents. The fact that one person can stop that in a jury trial is an essential safeguard.