Articles Posted in Jury Trial

Today marks the 27th Anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Perry v. Louisiana[1]. Perry stands for the proposition that you cannot forcibly medicate an individual so they are competent to be executed.

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The Case[2]

The case behind Perry is quite bizarre. Only the evening of July 17th, 1983 Michael Owen Perry entered the unlocked home of his cousins Randy Perry, and Brian LeBlane. Mr. Perry shot and killed both his cousins, before leaving the home, crossing the street and breaking into his parents’ home. Mr. Perry waited for his parents to return, and when they returned home along with their two-year-old grandson Anthony Bonin, Mr. Perry shot and killed all three. Mr. Perry then stole $3,000 worth of cash and fled. Oddly, police found a list of intended victims at the crime scene, with the list including Justice Sandra Day O’Conner[3] and musician Olivia Newton-John[4]. Neighbors and family members said that Mr. Perry had always been unstable, and he was obsessed with Oliva Newton-John’s performance in the movie Grease[5]. Two weeks later, Mr. Perry was arrested in Washington D.C just miles away from the Supreme Court[6].

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Leocal v. Ashcroft[1]. Leocal[2] stands for the proposition that DWI crimes which lack mens rea, or only require proving negligence are not “crimes of violence” which trigger deportation.

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The Case

The case behind Leocal is relatively mundane. Josue Leocal a citizen of Haiti and lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1987 was arrested in November of 2000 for felony Driving Under the Influence (DUI)[3] and causing serious bodily injury. Mr. Leocal plead not guilty to both counts, but was found guilty of both offense and sentenced to two and a half years in jail. While in jail, in October 2001, Immigration and Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings began under section 237(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The judge held that Mr. Leocal’s DUI was a “crime of violence”, and thus an aggravated felony which opened Mr. Leocal to deportation, denied Mr. Leocal’s application for relief, and ordered him deported to Haiti. Mr. Leocal appealed the ruling, and in August 2002 the Board of Immigration Appeals sustained the judge’s ruling and ordered Mr. Leocal deported. In November 2002, Mr. Leocal was deported to Haiti. From Hatit, Mr. Leocal appealed the ruling. However, in a 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion had held that a DUI was an aggravated felony, and as such the court had no jurisdiction to review the lawfulness of the deportation order. The Supreme Court granted cert in 2004.

Today marks the 85th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Powell v. Alabama[1]. Powell[2] is one of the cases in which the Supreme Court laid out the basic due process requirements of a fair trial in state courts including right to effective appointed counsel in capital offenses, fair time to prepare for trial, and fair hearing. This case proved to be a monumental move for the Supreme Court, which signaled a progressive shift to expanding constitutional rights for defendants in criminal trials.

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The Case[3]

The case behind the monumental decision of the Supreme Court required a monumental remedy. On March 25th, 1931, a fight broke out aboard a freight train between a group of poor black and white youth who both had not paid for the ride. All but one of the white youths was thrown from the train just over the Alabama state line, and these boys promptly reported the incident to local law enforcement. The nine-black youths Charlie Weems, Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Haywood Patterson[4], Andrew (Andy) Wright, Leroy (Roy) Wright and Eugene Williams were detained when they reached the town of Scottsboro Alabama[5].

In April of 2010, Mr. Cornell had his home raided by police where 1/16th of an ounce of marijuana had been found – not enough to roll a joint. None of the potential jurors called for the case where willing to consider convicting someone for possessing a very small amount of marijuana.[1]

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November 16th 2010, Touray Cornell from Montana, breathed a sigh of relief and smiled as Judge “Dusty” Deschamps convened his court to report that out of all the potential jurors who had been called, not one would be willing to convict Mr. Cornell. Dumbfounded by the jurors’ decision, the District Attorney quickly spoke to Mr. Cornell’s defense counsel and an immediate plea deal was made. Mr. Cornell walked out free without admitting guilt and without probation.

Mr. Cornell witnessed the power of Jury Nullification, a show of citizen’s power through the legal system have a long and storied history in America. it is the power of Jury nullification and Mr. Cornell saw a version of that power first hand.

iStock_000012403418XSmall (3).jpgA trend is developing in courtrooms across the nation: juries are hesitant to convict individuals for simple marijuana cases. Recently, after discovering that a defendant was being prosecuted for marijuana possession, the uproar from the jury led the prosecutors to drop the charges. The defense attorney in the case explained that the jury “felt marijuana should be legalized.” The growing distaste for harsh marijuana punishment is only gaining momentum in the wake of Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational use of marijuana in 2012.

While that case is not the standard outcome, it is also not an isolated incident. In another case, in which the defendant was charged with possession of one sixteenth of an ounce marijuana, so many jurors protested at charges being pursued that the prosecutor was pressured into offering a plea bargain.

In yet another case, a jury acquitted a man of marijuana cultivation, even though there was more than enough evidence to find him guilty. The judge in that case told the jury that “even if you find that the State has proven each and every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find the defendant not guilty if you have a conscientious feeling that a not guilty verdict would be a fair result in this case.” The jury apparently had “a conscientious feeling” and decided not to convict and imprison a man for personal marijuana cultivation.

Multiple factors play into the growing number of acquittals in marijuana cases. Along with rapidly changing public opinion, prosecutors face overwhelming caseloads and generally concentrate their time, energy, and resources on more serious crimes.

Obviously, prosecutors will not stop doing their jobs when the police arrest someone for violating a marijuana law. But these recent developments mean that marijuana defendants have a better chance at winning in court than ever before if represented by a lawyer willing to fight to the end.
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