Many Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers would admit that it’s not the suit they choose to wear or the questions and presentation they make, but who sits on a jury that is the most important aspect of a criminal trial.
Whether it’s a case of a Jacksonville sex crime or an allegation of theft in Jacksonville, the six or 12 people chosen to sit on the jury and decide the defendant’s guilt or innocence play an extremely important role.
They are called on to make an important decision regarding a person’s future and must have all the facts. But what is said to them and how the court handles questioning are important in making sure the defendant gets a fair trial.
In the case of Lamb v. Alabama, critical mistakes led to justice not being done.
In this case, the defendant, James Beauford Lamb Jr., appealed his conviction of first-degree sexual abuse. During trial, the jury delivered two inconsistent verdicts as to the sexual abuse charge. The written verdict on a form given to them in the jury room found him “not guilty.” In court, when polled, jurors said he was “guilty.”
The jury was discharged from its duty, and under Alabama case law once a jury is discharged, it cannot be reconvened. An appeals court dismissed the defendant’s appeal, but the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the judge’s decision to try to amend the “not guilty” verdict wasn’t proper.
The jurors were already discharged, having left the presence of the court and were called back by the judge. The Alabama Supreme Court decided that the actions of the judge amounted to double jeopardy and shouldn’t be allowed.
Even more strange about this case is that the judge was able to find only seven of the 12 jurors. When they discussed the case, that portion of the jury — not the jury as a whole — decided that they had meant for count two, the first-degree sexual abuse charge, to be guilty, but for count four — a second-degree sexual abuse charge — to be not guilty. The foreman in court mixed them up.
Looking back, the interesting part of the entire situation, once a jury has been dismissed, they are done. Their service has ended and anything that they were needed for should have been handled before then. For a judge to make decisions about the guilt or innocence of a defendant with only a portion of the jurors recalled and others not present is unjust.
It’s a good thing one court in Alabama had the sense to shut down this verdict. And cases like this show that how a jury is handled and what is said to them is of extreme importance. They are not lawyers, but common citizens who may be intimidated once they step into a courtroom. They trust the judge and may be skeptical of the lawyers. If a defense lawyer doesn’t stand up for his client, what the judge says can taint the jury and run over the defendant’s rights.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
More Blog Entries:
State v. McCave Shows Over-Aggressive Nature of DUI Investigations in Jacksonville: October 27, 2011
McFolley v. State Highlights Importance of Expert Testimony in Jacksonville Defense: October 25, 2011