The plaintiff Nicomedes Tubar in a civil-rights case in Federal Court in Seattle has obtained as many as six sworn statements from jurors in a cop shooting case recently decided against Mr. Tubar. Mr. Tubar was shot by Officer Jason Clift during the investigation of a stolen-car report.
The six juror statements detail how one of the jurors, who was married to a police officer, referenced the fact her husband was a police officer and the training, shooting skills and other procedures he received as a policeman. U.S. District Judge John Coughenour has been asked to throw out the jury verdict and find in Mr. Tubar's favor, or grant a new trial.
This case is troubling for a trial attorney
like myself. I often tell my clients that you never know what a jury is going to do once behind the closed doors of the jury room. Juries are given instructions by the judge on what rules they must follow in deciding the case, and for the most part jurors to their very best to follow those rules. However, on rare occasions a juror with special knowledge may ignore those rules and the judge's instructions and push their own improper agenda on the other jurors. When this happens it is called juror misconduct. If that juror is successful in influencing the other jurors improperly the entire trial becomes tainted and a new trial is often needed.
Juror misconduct is a serious problem. Our system of justice relies on the rule of law. We trust jurors will uphold and follow the legal rules required in deciding a court case. If a jury does not do this, then the jury trial is unfairly undermined and our entire system of justice begins to fail.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to a jury trial. It's a founding principle of our justice system. As a U.S. citizen great trust and responsibility is place in you when called to be a juror. You are the foot soldier and foundation of American justice. If you ignore the rules set in place by our elected officials then our country's foundation begins to crumble. That is why it is so important in each and every case everything is done to make sure the jury deliberations are conducted properly.
This case is still developing and it will be interesting to see what Judge Coughenour decides to do.
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