• Juries,  Post-Trial Practice

    Special Verdicts vs. Special Verdict Forms

    Where a special verdict is hopelessly ambiguous as to whether it awards duplicative damages, the rule is that the trial court should ask the jury to clarify the verdict. But what if the jury is discharged before anyone objects to the ambiguity? The court of appeal reminds us in Zagami, Inc. v. James A. Crone, Inc., case no. D049563 (4th Dist. Mar. 10, 2008), that it depends on whether the ambiguity arises from the form of the verdict or the jury’s answers. Error in the form of the verdict is subject to waiver if no objection is made. But ambiguity created by the jury’s responses is not waived, even if…

  • Blogging,  Juries,  New Trials

    Jury Foreman’s Blog a Likely Issue on Appeal

    A local trial court has just denied a new trial motion based on juror misconduct, where the misconduct was the jury foreman’s blogging about the gang member’s 19-day murder trial while it was going on, including posting a photo of the murder weapon, commenting on the evidence and witnesses, praising his own performance as jury foreman, and criticizing the work ethic of courtroom staff. From today’s Ventura County Star: After sentencing a gang member to prison for murder, a Ventura County judge ripped into the jury foreman Tuesday, holding the juror in contempt of court for writing a blog that exposed details of the case during the trial. The blog,…

  • Juries

    Why is New York’s Highest Court not “Supreme”?

    It’s a question well outside this blog’s usual jurisdiction, but my guess is that this question crossed the minds of almost all of us during law school, when we learned that New York’s court of last resort is called the “Court of Appeals,” while the trial courts are “Supreme Courts.” Professor Orin Kerr got curious enough to do some Googling on the issue, and posts what he learned — which includes events dating back to 1777 — at The Volokh Conspiracy.  So if you’d like to end your week (or start your weekend) with some legal trivia, head over there.

  • Blogging,  Juries,  Oral Advocacy

    An Interesting Law Blog from an Interesting Source

    I’ve run across an interesting blog:  Winning Trial Advocacy Techniques.  With a title like that, I don’t need to tell you what its about.  But I got really interested in it after I’d read some interesting posts and clicked on the “about” link to see who runs it.  Turns out its an organization called “Trial Theater,” yet another name that gives you an idea of the organization’s perspective.  Worth checking out.

  • Criminal Law,  Juries

    CALCRIM No. 2302 Survives Appellate Challenge

    Revisions to jury instructions are generally supposed to make things easier for juries.  In People v. Montero, case no. C052423 (3d Dist. Oct. 2, 2007), the defendant contended that Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2006-2007), CALCRIM no. 2302, concerning the elements of the crime of possession for sale of a controlled substance, made it just a little too easy for the jury to convict because it allegedly does not require the jury to find that defendant “knowingly exercised control” over the controlled substance and for failing to use the term “dominion and control” in the element of possession. (PDF download of entire CALCRIM available here.) Comparing CALCRIM 2302…

  • California Procedure,  Criminal Procedure,  Juries

    CALCRIM No. 226 Survives Appellate Challenge

    In People v. Wamer, case no. F051027 (5th Dist. Sept. 12, 2007), the Court of Appeal holds that CALCRIM No. 226 does not impermissibly lighten the prosecutor’s burden of proof.  Wamer, convicted of murder, contended that the last paragraph of the instruction lightened the prosecutor’s burden by its use of the words in bold italics in the below excerpt (emphasis added), the last paragraph of the instruction: If you decide that a witness deliberately lied about something significant in this case, you should consider not believing anything that witness says.  Or, if you think the witness lied about some things, but told the truth about others, you may simply accept…

  • Contracts,  Juries

    Mercedes-Benz Asks for a Low Standard for Assessing the Merchantability of an Automobile

    Click on the “Only Mercedes-Benz” link on the home page of the Mercedes-Benz USA website, and you are presented with a new page with the following title:  Leadership 120 years later, the legend continues. So I find it rather funny that in Isip v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, case no. B192382 (2d Dist. Sept. 12, 2007), Mercedes-Benz requested the court to instruct the jury that the warranty of merchantability is not breached so long as a vehicle gets you from place to place in one piece.  Isip contended she experienced the following problems with her car: The air-conditioning emitted an offensive smell every time it was turned on, giving Isip a…

  • Juries

    Postage Stamp Honoring Jury Duty

    Today, the U.S. Postal Service issues a first class (41¢) postage stamp honoring jury duty, which you can buy here.  The design is nicely done and eye catching.  If courts used the stamp to send jury summonses, perhaps people would be more motivated to serve on a jury. I wonder how many will be used instead to mail jury duty exemption forms in response to jury summonses.  And how many people will notice.

  • Constitutional Law,  Criminal Procedure,  Death Penalty,  Juries

    Ninth Upholds Death Penalty Despite Jury’s Reference to Bible during Penalty Phase Deliberations

    Stevie Lamar Fields was convicted in California state court of heinous crimes, including murder, which he committed in the course of a three-week spree that he started just two weeks after completing a prison stretch for manslaughter.  During the penalty phase of his trial, the jury foreman consulted a Bible, a dictionary, and other reference texts, made notes of points for and against the death penalty, then shared those notes with the jury.  The foreman’s notes in favor of the death penalty included Biblical passages.  Fields was sentenced to death. The District Court denied habeas relief on the conviction but granted it as to the death penalty. The Ninth Circuit’s…

  • Juries,  Web Resources

    Trial Lawyers, Did You Know About This?

    A site that tracked back to this post of mine looks like it might be of interest to my trial lawyer readers.  The site juryexperiences.org subheads its page, “What Really Happens On Juries.”  It opens to a “News & Opinion” section that is headed “Selected clippings from blogs and the press, with links to sources” (which is where they linked to me).  The most intriguing area, at first glance, appears to be this link: Read, post and discuss jury experiences on our discussion forum! That might be worth exploring1