Practice Problems: Trials & Jury.Print this page
Practice Problems: Trials & Jury
1. Christopher Robin shoplifted a watch from a California
department store and was caught by store security after they
watched him on closed-circuit cameras. At arraignment he pleads
not guilty. Judge Stone examines his docket and realizes that he
is backed up for six months. Therefore, he informs Christopher
that as he is a first time oﬀender, he will not sentence him to
imprisonment. Christopher is convicted and sentenced to
community service and one year of probation. He appeals his
conviction and argues that he should have been granted a jury
trial. Is he likely to succeed in his appeal? Why?
For purposes of this question, assume that shoplifting is
punishable as a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to six months
imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
2. In the instructional materials this week, you read the following
scenario: You represent a 65-year-old Latina woman. She was
fired from her job. Her boss was a 33-year-old white male. She
believes she was fired either because of her age or ancestry.
a. Assume you represent the employer/boss. Propose three
voir dire questions you would ask the jury pool. State why
you would ask each question. Please do not repeat the
examples below. (10 points)
For example: Has anyone here been involved in an
employment discrimination case? This question shows
potential bias. I would follow up this question by asking if
they could make a fair decision about the case despite
being involved in a similar case.
b. Assume you represent the employee. Propose three voir dire
questions you would ask the jury pool. State why you would
ask each question. (10 points).
Each question is to be supported with at least a two-sentence
response providing reasons in support of the question.
You will need to prepare six unique questions that are not
repeated for either employer or employee.
Do not ask any introductory questions that ask about jury duty,
the role of a juror, and whether a juror can make a decision based
on the evidence presented. Be specific, and target your questions
based on whom you are representing.
Copyright © 2019 The University of Southern California
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Right to a Jury Trial
Speaker: John Acevedo
[Start of recorded material]
Heading: Right to a Jury Trial.
Text: Has been applied against states via the 14th Amendment of
Constitution in the case Duncan v. Louisiana
Heading: When does the Right Attach: Felonies and Misdemeanors
Text: The constitutional right to jury trial attaches any time the
defendant is tried for an oﬀense the maximum authorized sentence that
exceeds six months. If the maximum sentence is up to and including
six months, then no right to jury trial. When there are multiple
misdemeanors, the sum of which is more than six months but each
individual charge is six months or less, then there is no right to jury trial.
Heading: When does the Right Attach: Criminal Contempt
Text: If the sum of the sentences exceeds six months, the alleged
contemnor is entitled to a jury trial.
Note the diﬀerence between contempt and other crimes. In contempt
cases there is often no statute or other guideline for the sentence so in
contempt cases the actual sentence imposed matters. In misdemeanor
and felony cases the actual sentence is irrelevant, what matters is the
maximum possible sentence.
Heading: Hypothetical I
Text: Jose Patel stole a vase worth $501 from the Old Curiosity Shop in
Chicago, Illinois. Illinois law states that anyone who steals an item from
a store worth $500 or more is guilty of a felony and can be sentenced
to up to two years imprisonment. Does Mr. Patel have the right to a jury
trial? Would it matter if he was tried, convicted, but only sentenced to
five months imprisonment?
Heading: Hypothetical I Answer
Text: As the maximum possible sentence is more than six months
imprisonment he has the right to a jury trial. It does not matter if the
defendant is actually sentenced to six months or less. The right to a
jury trial attaches when the possible maximum sentence to be imposed
exceeds six months.
Heading: Number of Jurors
Text: There is no constitutional right to a jury of 12 persons. The
Supreme Court upheld a jury composed of six persons as constitutional
in Burch v. Louisiana. The idea that a jury should be composed of 12
persons is a historical accident, not a requirement.
Heading: Unanimity of Jury
Text: There is no constitutional right to a unanimous jury. The Supreme
Court has upheld guilty verdicts of 10-2 and 9-3. If there are only six
jurors then the jury must be unanimous for conviction.
Heading: Hypothetical II
Text: Anne Drummond engaged in a fist fight with her neighbor and is
arrested by the police. She is charged with assault. At her trial the jury
consists of six persons. They vote 4 to 2 in favor of her conviction. After
the trial she appeals her conviction on the grounds that there was no
unanimous decision and that she did not have a jury of 12 persons. Is
she likely to succeed?
Heading: Hypothetical II Answer
Text: Her appeal for not having 12 jurors will fail as there is no
constitutional right to a 12-person jury. Her appeal for being convicted
by a verdict of 4 to 2 should succeed as the Supreme Court has
required that a 6- person jury be unanimous.
Heading: Cross Section Requirement
Text: Taylor v. Louisiana: Defendants have a right to a fair representation
of the county in which the crime was committed. If county jury pool
reflects a fair cross-section of county that is suﬃcient. There is no right
to have own personal jury represent a cross-section of county. A
defendant can complain of an exclusion of a significant segment of the
community, must be a suspect classification (race, gender, age, etc)
from the county jury pool even if he is not a member of that excluded
Heading: Challenges to Prospective Jurors (Voir Dire)
Text: For cause, prior knowledge of party (defendant, victim, judge, or
witness), conflict of interest (e.g. own stock in company robbed), or
prior victim of same type of crime. Juror can be challenged for cause
by judge or either council.
Heading: Peremptory Challenges
Text: A peremptory challenge is a challenge that can be used for any
reason except a prohibited reason.
Both the prosecution and defense are given a set number of
peremptory challenges. Prohibited reasons are challenges based on
race (Batson v. Kentucky) or gender (JEB v. Alabama). Applies to both
prosecution and defense. Problem is this is extremely diﬃcult to prove
unless someone talks.
Heading: Improper Challenges
Text: The objecting side must show a prima facia inference of improper
exclusion by challenging party.
Challenger must tender to the judge a neutral explanation. Either judge
accepts the neutral explanation and jury stands or judge does not
accept it and start over.
Heading: Hypothetical III
Text: David Drummond is on trial for murdering his ex-girlfriend. At his
trial his lawyer uses peremptory challenges only on women, thereby
ensuring that there are no women on his jury. The prosecution objects
that these peremptory challenges were for an improper reason. The
judge asks for an explanation and the defense lawyer says he
challenged them all for having long hair. Should the judge allow the
Heading: Hypothetical III Answer
Text: Yes, a peremptory challenge can be for any reason as long as not
an improper reason. It can simply be that the lawyer doesn’t like people
with long hair as people with long hair is not a protected classification.
In Plunkett v. Alabama the Supreme Court upheld the prosecutions
peremptory challenge of all African-American jurors on the explanation
that the district attorney challenged them for having long hair and
beards. Note that the explanation wouldn’t work if one of the jurors
didn’t fit the explanation.
[End of recorded material]
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