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Jury instructions are the very important rules that judges give to jurors before they begin deliberations on a case. We have recently covered several cases where postings on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have become a concern in the jury box and an item to be included in the jury instructions. In this latest case, however, the presiding judge said he should have included another instruction: "Don't do anything stupid."
How did we get here? It all began during a murder trial in Connecticut. According to The Hartford Courant, the case of the murder of a woman and her two daughters by defendant Steven Hayes was entering its penalty phase. However, one alternate juror evidently had her mind on other things. Like the bailiff.
The Courant reports that Judge Jon C. Blue somehow intercepted a love note from a juror intended for a court marshal, or bailiff. The note read: "Sunday 5:00 pm Side Street Grill / Hamden". The judge, a self proclaimed "romantic at heart" was reluctant to dismiss the hook-up seeking juror. Not only was the judge a black-robed softy, but he was rapidly running out of his jury pool. In a case that began with 12 jurors and six alternates, Judge Blue was down to a final alternate: this one a little love struck.
The Judge questioned the juror, who to her credit, was mortified by her love note. Part of the exchange, reports The Courant went like this: "I want to just bury myself," the juror said, at times putting her head in her hands. Blue told her he thought about excusing her, but said, "frankly we need you." "There's no question that my instructions, strictly construed, do not prohibit this," Judge Blue continued. However, there are many things that are prohibited but not specifically addressed, like "walking naked across the New Haven Green." Good example.
At this point, Judge Blue, not a complete cream puff, opined that he needed the previously noted "don't do anything stupid" jury instruction. "Pardon my French," he said, "but this was a god---- dumb thing to do." Good point.
It can only be hoped that the lovelorn juror will drag her attention back to the man on trial and his alleged victims. All may be fair in love and war, but in a death penalty case, there are strict rules that must be followed and this could put the whole case in line for mistrial. Good Luck Judge Blue.
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