An articulate lawyer in California was sailing through his powerful closing argument, hammering his opponent’s case by reminding the jurors that the witnesses called by opposing counsel were liars and advising the jurors that if they determined a witness was untruthful, they could disregard that witness’s evidence in its entirety.
To the surprise of the court officers and the overflowing gallery, a lone juror applauded loudly at the conclusion of the lawyer’s speech. The unruffled lawyer took his seat. His opponent sat unsmiling with a haunted look on his face.
Of course, the juror’s behavior was inappropriate and it was now up to the trial judge to determine if the juror’s conduct was so prejudicial that a mistrial should be declared. The judge quizzed all the jurors separately and privately. Each said that the sudden applause did not interfere with their duty to weigh the evidence and apply the law. They thought the juror’s behavior was odd, embarrassing and perhaps a stress reliever.
The judge came to the clapping juror and asked her why she had been so publicly enthusiastic about the argument?
She said that she had been pleased to hear that if she thought a witness was lying, she could reject that witness’s evidence.
The judge determined that the trial could complete and that no new trial would be ordered. He did this in the face of one juror swearing an affidavit that the clapping juror was loud, confrontational and had taken to pounding the jury table to get her fellow jurors’ attention. She also held herself out as an accounting expert whose opinion should be accepted because of her skill and knowledge.
Not surprisingly, the case went to the Court of Appeal who reviewed the evidence and upheld the trial judge’s decision. The appeal court said that the aggression, applause, and accounting expertise of the juror was part of an imperfect world.
“The jury system is fundamentally human… which is both a strength and a weakness.
Jurors are not automatons. If the system is to function at all, we must tolerate a certain
amount of imperfection short of actual bias.”
Needless to say, the lawyer who received the applause enjoyed the juror’s attention and has now set his sights on a standing ovation!
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang