At the conclusion of the trial, the Judge reads the instructions of law that apply to that case. That is the law of the case that the jury is to use in determining its verdict. Then, the Judge tells the jury that they are to “retire” to the jury room to begin their deliberations.
The first thing that a jury does when that door closes, is to select a foreman. In Virginia, civil cases have 7 jurors and criminal cases have 12 on the jury. In selecting the foreman, the job includes making sure that everyone is part of the deliberation process and then ultimately filling out and signing the verdict form, before it is handed to the Judge. That’s why the Judge then turns to the jury and asks the foreman, “Have you reached a verdict?”. Then, the foreman responds for the record, “we have, your honor”.
All that seems organized and orderly. In a courtroom in Nasheville, Tennessee, it did not work out like that. According to an article in the “Tennessean” (I tried to attach the article but it only allowed one visit) , a U.S. District Judge recently excused a foreman from his duties, and the jury deliberation process.
Judge Aleta Trauger felt that the foreman had been bullying the other jurors and that it had even gone into the realm of abuse. This occurred during the deliberations following four weeks of evidence in a case of drug conspiracy and distribution.
The Judge told the lawyers that she had received five notes from other jurors advising that the deliberations were being effected by the bullying of the foreman. She told the lawyers, “people are feeling abused in the jury room”.
She replaced the foreman with one of the alternates and told them to continue to deliberate. In the play “Twelve Angry Men”, that ultimately was made into a movie; the characters were aggressive with one another in attempting to come to an agreeable finding. Jury “Number 8” becomes an important character as he displays the temperament of seeing all sides to arrive at the truth. If you have never seen it, it is worth finding to watch as one of the old classics. (Entertainment recommendations are just part of the blog excitement!)
For the present day situation in Tennessee, it will be interesting to see whether the final deliberations with the substitution of the alternate will give rise to an appealable issue. When the Judge said that the foreman caused one juror to leave the room in tears, it begs the question whether that jury can ever start over to fairly and impartially deliberate.
For pic o’ day, I figured that it would be appropriate to go with one about shopping… for this time of year: