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Professional Juries Pros and Cons

Monday, August 31st, 2015

I get a few magazines in the mail for the reception area. One of the favorites of the office comes from Costco as a result of my membership. It’s not even a paid magazine subscription, unless you count the membership fee. Free is good!

The September 2015 edition of The Costco Connection has an article titled Are professional juries a good idea? The article title is answered with brief responses for both sides. One is an answer of YES  to the question and right below it is the responsive answer of NO. The September edition is not yet online, so let me summarize the positions.

The answer of YES is written by a retired FBI agent. He basis his answer on the benefit of familiarity. He believes that juries would do a better job if they were trained and understood the law when sitting on a civil or criminal jury. Just as police, and prosecutors, and judges are trained, so should be juries.

An attorney writes the response for NO. He argues the benefits of a jury of peers, and that a professionally trained juror would not be within that definition. His argument is based on an interpretation of the Constitution.

I have attached two other articles  below, that deal with professional juries. No one argues that there should be justice. It’s just a question of how best to get there.

What are the pros and cons of ‘professional jurors?’   and Professional Juries: Veritas or Vocation?

 

And a pic o’ day from my Mom:

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Have You Wondered?

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

So I was taking an early morning Saturday walk. (Have you ever wondered why so many people start out their sentences with So?) I came upon a few deer standing in the field, with a couple of them real close to the road. I mean close,  as in about 10 feet. Of course, that caused me to get my cellphone out to take a deer picture. Have you wondered how we made it without cell phones?

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The deer looked at me and I looked at the deer. I’m guessing that she was wondering why I was wearing a Colts hat in Washington Redskin country. I was wondering why this skinny deer was looking for food instead of just grabbing a bag of Doritos. She clearly was a few sandwiches short of a picnic lunch in weight.

So that brings me to wondering about a serious news items.  Marketbusiness.com reports a concern about antibiotics. According to researchers, individuals who regularly filled  prescriptions for antibiotics each year, are at a greater risk for type 2 diabetes. It makes me wonder if it means that too much of a good thing is bad, or if antibiotics are sometimes just bad for people. Medicine to cure… that causes.

And in the second story that causes some wonder, we head to the world of politics. Donald Trump was able to catapult himself on the presidential scene when he came out tough on illegal immigration. Throughout his campaign, he has said that his presidency would keep illegals out because, “We’re building a wall. It’s going to be a wall that is not– nobody is going through my wall”.

According to CNN (Story), you might wonder about Trump’s position on immigration, in light of his family history and especially his thoughts on marrying immigrants.

First, his mother was from Scotland; His father was the son of German immigrants.  His current wife came to the U.S.  from Slovenia about twenty years ago. She became a U.S. citizen after marrying Trump in 2005. His first wife (Ivana) was born in  Czechoslovakia and came to this country several years earlier before marrying Trump in 1977. Eleven years later she became a U.S. citizen. Does that make you wonder?

And finally, are you wondering why I was wondering why a deer wasn’t just grabbing a bag of Doritos? Yes… I was just wondering.

 

And our pic o’ day…

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The Evidence Sniffer!

Friday, August 28th, 2015

A Labrador Retriever named Bear  (which is more relaxing than a bear named Labrador) was enlisted to “sniff out” a computer thumb drive in the home of Jared Fogle. The thumb drive played a key role in  child pornography charges being filed against the former Subway spokesman. (NBC News) It was evidence that humans had failed to find during a  July search of Fogle’s house.

The “talent” that was in search of the Fogle evidence acquired this special skill because a chemist named Jack Hubball tested flash drives, circuit boards and other electronic components, and determined that there was a common chemical that was found in all of them. Then, Hubball trained three dogs to recognize that scent; Much the way that other dogs can pick up the scent of a fugitive, or cocaine stashed in a car compartment or piece of luggage.

“Digital Detective” Bear can smell the components of electronic media. It doesn’t matter if it’s stuck in a drawer, as small as a micro-card the size of a fingernail. The hope is that dogs will also be able to be trained in weapons of terror. The new war on crime with the assistance of man’s best friend.

And for our weekend pic…

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Making it Politics

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

“Did you see the news?” That was repeated among us yesterday after two journalists were shot here in Virginia. When I initially pulled up the story online, I saw a darkened image of the supposed shooter. Later I learned his identity.  At no time did I hear anyone here at the office express anything politically about the shooting.  Instead, I repeatedly heard how awful it was.

Later I read more on the shooting and the unfolding events. Then, I started to see politicians coming out of the woodwork to express their sympathies. Then, I saw several take the opportunity to express the need for gun control.

Based on the minimal information that I know about the events, I suppose that someone could express an opinion about gun control, depression, discrimination lawsuits or even what can be easily uploaded to social media.

I wonder if there is a politician that can stop themselves from seizing the opportunity to express immediate opinion. Instead, maybe they could just remember humanity. Everyone around me just felt terrible about what had happened. No one was talking about political issues. It was all about why someone would be so cruel.

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Judge Uses Internet

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

At the beginning of each trial, judges usually instruct jurors that they are to base their decision on the evidence and nothing else. In our openings, we sometimes refer to information that is not part of the introduced evidence as ”outside the box”.

Recently 7th Circuit Appeals Judge Richard Posner decided to do some of his own outside research, and another judge took him to task. in the same opinion. Initially, the case revolved around an Indiana inmate who claimed that prison officials had confiscated his Zantac that he took for his acid reflux.

As a result, he was unable to take the pills with his meals, because he had to wait for the  nurse to dispense them. So, he filed suit against prison officials without the help of a lawyer. During the suit, his  Zantac prescription lapsed and prison officials ignored his request for a new prescription. They indicated that he could just purchase it offsite, over the counter.

A month later, a prison physician renewed the prescription, but the pills were still dispensed by a nurse, 5.5 to 6.5 hours before mealtime, instead of with his meals. That schedule does not work for the medication to alleviate his condition.

The inmates lawsuit was dismissed and he appealed it.  Factually, he had been denied appointed counsel, access to a medical expert, and couldn’t afford to pay for any help. He appealed!

When it got to the 7th District Appellate Court, Judge Posner decided to go to the Internet and do his own research.  He visited several websites for information on acid reflux and and on the medication  Zantac. He wanted to learn when the drug should be taken. He admitted that the websites  he visited included the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Healthline, the National Institutes of Health, the Physicians’ Desk Reference, and Wikipedia. He also  wanted to know about the prison doctor who wrote the new prescription to be dispensed by the nurse so he visited healthgrades  on that doctor, a defendant who also served as his own expert witness in the case.

It obviously fired up Judge Posner because he wrote in his opinion (for some sleepy-time reading, Judge Posner’s opinion is attached here):

Shall the unreliability of the unalloyed adversary process in a case of such dramatic inequality of resources and capabilities of the parties as this case be an unalterable bar to justice?” It is heartless to make a fetish of adversary procedure if by doing so feeble evidence is credited because the opponent has no practical access to offsetting evidence.”

Basically, the Judge was saying that the system should not be allowed to bully this prison inmate who just wanted to take his medication. He came to that conclusion by doing his own research to determine when it should have been correctly taken.

However, judges know that jurors are not supposed to consider outside information… like going to the Internet and doing their own research. As a result of Posner’s actions, another Judge took him to task in both a concurring and dissenting opinion; meaning that he agreed with the finding but disagreed with Posner’s research.

Judge Hamilton said about Posner’s research that it  “turns the court from a neutral decision-maker into an advocate for one side” and raises unanswered questions. “When are district judges supposed to carry out this independent factual research?” Hamilton continues. “How much is enough? What standards of reliability should apply to the results?”

Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner also wrote that the case had “morphed into a debate” about Internet research. In Rovner’s view, deciding the correct result on appeal didn’t require anything outside the record.

In the end, the inmate won and a larger victory given to future inmates. It also opens the debate on whether judges can do their own research outside of the existing record. Things that make you go Hmmm!

And for pic o’ day, here’s one that was sent from Jessica:

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Law and Blue’s Clues

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Blue’s Clues is a show that is credited with helping to build the popularity of Nickelodeon Television.  The show came out in the mid-nineties. It follows an animated blue-spotted dog named Blue, who gives clues to viewers as a learning tool. According to Wikipedia, a study of the show found that children between the ages of six and thirty six months benefited in vocabulary and communication. Even young children enjoyed solving puzzles!

I was reminded of that show when I read about police solving crimes in the Hampton Roads area. Two stories in Pilot Online tell these clue stories.

First was the story of the selfie that solved the crime.    A man called the police after two men robbed him of money… when he was trying to buy marijuana from them.  The two men handed him a  backpack. When he opened it, they pushed him to the ground and took his money.

The backpack didn’t contain marijuana, the man later told police – it contained socks. And insult to injury for him… he didn’t even get to keep the socks; the two men even grabbed the backpack and ran.

After he called the police, they searched the area and found a cellphone in a nearby yard. The phone contained a photo of a shirtless selfie. Police showed it to the man who was robbed… who identified the selfie as one of his robbers. The case of the careless selfie!

The second case  involves a Mercedes that was vandalized with eggs. However, police found a clue under the seat… a receipt for eggs.

The receipt had details of the  purchase of a dozen eggs and syrup from a nearby Wal-Mart. It also showed the credit card and transaction numbers. Store employees were able to pull up the video of the man who made the egg purchase. The case of the cracked egg clues!

And for pic o’ day… Is this a clue?

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Power of Name Lawsuit

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

Proverbs 22:1 says that, “a good name is rather to be chosen than great wealth”. A recent lawsuit reminded us that a good name creates great wealth.

Recently I learned that Lebron James has over 23 million followers on twitter  that companies pay him 140K per sponsored tweet. (awful announcing) The value of his name! Kind of nice to be able to send out a 140 character message that says something like I like to use Clorox on my shirt collars, for some quick money from a quick cell phone tweet.

I can tweet out wisdom in the form of Jedi Master Yoda’s words,  ”Difficult to see.  Always in motion is the future.” and no one pays me… much attention!

When someone other than Michael Jordan is using his name in an advertisement, then it leads to a lawsuit to determine damages. A Dominick’s grocery story chain ran a newspaper ad that congratulated Jordan on his induction in the hall of fame. I decided to attach a copy of the ad to the blog… and the pictures are now all copyrighted, so google the story and image to see it.

At the bottom of the ad, there was a coupon for steaks. That’s what caught the lawyers’ attention. In the end, the unauthorized use of his name ended in a verdict against the grocery story chain in the amount of 8.9 million.

The trial became all about the value of Michael Jordan’s name. It’s not surprising that his name would have great value, ecause advertisers regularly pay him to use his name.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look for an article on celebrity endorsements. Here are the 10 highest paid endorsement deals. (TheRichest) George Clooney has made over 50 million because of a coffee endorsement. It’s probably more of a head-shaker to me that Justin Bieber was paid 12 million to sell nail polish. These endorsement deals are part of the reason that someone like Jordan protects the use of his name.

Really, I only have one final thought on this lawsuit. It seems to me that from reading the news articles, the defense attorneys focused on the wrong defense. Either their client didn’t mean to use his name for commercial purposes, or the Jordan  name was worth less than 10 million. I think that maybe the best defense would have been that true life showed that the Michael Jordan name was not worth 10 million… because it wasn’t worth 10 million to them.

The grocery store chain steakhouse chain that ran the congratulations ad with the coupon is no longer in business. It certainly was not worth 10 million to them!

And for pic o’ day…

 

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Wild Politics

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

I’m am out of town on a case, which means blogging on an iPad. That and sometimes drinking coffee that “tastes something like coffee”.

So, for the blog, I thought I would just post some politics. Plus, who can be angry at a candidate named Deez Nuts!   Looks like he is trending up in a recent poll.  I wonder where he stands on Walnut immigration?

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Bumper Stickers on the Jury

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Several years ago, I was about to begin in North Carolina. Our trial team loaded up for a trial of indefinite length and checked into the only motel in town. We were told at the front desk that a Walmart was coming soon. The manager also said that their phone book was the only one in North Carolina that was always smaller than the year before… because people kept moving away. What can you say to that?

It was Friday afternoon and the trial was to start on Monday. So, we swung by the courthouse to pick up the jury panel list and we got to work. We started driving by the houses for any indication of what kind of juror may live at that house. That included looking at their cars to see the bumper stickers on the back of their bumpers.

I realize now that driving by jurors homes is a bit intrusive. I had only been practicing a couple of years, so I suppose that I made a lot of crazy decisions back then. Of course, I later learned that turning down the offer was also a bad idea, as the verdict came in for less. As the judge said at the beginning of trial, “Counselor, you need to settle this case. Everyone in this county has nothing, and they want everyone else to have nothing”.

The bumper sticker ”viewing” was some idea that I had heard at a seminar. Later, I saw a movie that included that question in jury selection. Apparently that Hollywood movie writer had heard the same idea.

Bumper stickers probably aren’t quite as popular now, but maybe we should come out with a give-away bumper sticker that reads, “I hate bumper stickers”.

With that in mind, I saw these pictures of bumper stickers posted online that were recently seen on the road. What kind of jurors are driving these cars?batman

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And finally…

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Turning 55

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Monday is my birthday. I turn 55. At first, I thought that I might just type those first two sentences as my blog today, But, I didn’t really know what that meant. I “turn” 55?

I decided to google “turning 55″. There are a lot of  people writing about it. There’s even retirement advice. People are writing about their goals and their dog getting old, and driving and not wearing high heels.

It’s odd that I feel disconnected from it. I don’t even know what to say except that I will smile when I say to my parents, “Can you believe that you have a 55-year-old son?”. My wife won’t be surprised if I play some Madden on PlayStation. Turning 55 won’t change that.

It’s a continuum of time. II Peter 3:8 says that, “with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years as one day”. So at least I have that going for me.

I have no thoughts of retiring. Of course, both my parents still work at the church, so I come by that honestly.

I have heard people say that looking over their life, they wouldn’t change anything. Not sure I would say that.  I guess I’m just not thinking too deeply about it.

I enjoy a good laugh; A Chik-fil-A sandwich with extra pickles; A bit of exercising because of things like that sandwich; A good book; A fresh Hanover tomato.

I remain curious; I enjoy a good story. I still dislike insurance companies, and I’m still not sure who shot JFK.

Ben Franklin said that getting older makes you distrust young doctors and old barbers. I can’t say that even resonates with me, but it does make me laugh.

This doesn’t feel like an arrival. I will have cake because I like cake. But, I’d like to eat cake everyday!

Yes, I wish I could write an epic blog about turning 55. Maybe turning 56 or 60 will cause me to be more reflective. For now, I am just glad to be where I am… right now. And, I plan on being just as glad after my birthday on Monday.

I’ll be back with a blog on Wednesday; But, I suspect that my birthday will have no effect on my random blogging!

And for my birthday pic o’….

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