December 1, 2006

Bogus headline, ridiculously unshocking juror behavior.

"High heel races, food fights and jurors gone wild." The jurors were back at the hotel, where they were sequestered for two weeks.
Jurors in the trial of a man accused of killing an Indiana University student got "giggly" while sequestered at a hotel, records show -- with men racing each other wearing high heels, food fights, football and Frisbee.

The defense is not amused, but may not be able to do much about it.

Can we do anything about CNN.com writing that headline and wasting our time with a big article trotting out a defense attorney's desperate theory?

32 comments:

Vogrin said...

Gee, they actually had some _fun_ while locked away from their entire life? Shame on them [/sarcasm]

NSC said...

Unless they were trying a cross-dressing football player who killed someone with a frisbee and then had a food fight with the police I don't see anything the defense can latch onto here.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

I think the Canadians have got it rather more correctly. Instead of sequestering jurors in trials such as this the issue a gag order.

Media may be present at the trial but may not publish any thing about the proceedings until after the gag order is lifted. The penalties are substantial.

There is no need to sequester jurors in such situations, and the media have nearly always had the good sense to obey the gag order.

rightwingprof said...

A defense attorney with even less public support than usual. Bloomington is a relatively small town, and after Jill Behrman disappeared in 2000, the community was obsessed. Searches, benefits, you name it (her body wasn't found until 2003). It's the highest profile case in Bloomington since Ellen Marks was murdered and cut into pieces and strewn around the county back in the 80s (they never found all of her). Very politically charged. I suspect the defense attorney can complain all he likes about anything he likes, and it won't get him anywhere.

tjl said...

Sorry to break the news, Derve, but this sort of behavior is not at all uncommon among juries.

I recall trying a murder case in which the drive-by shooting had actually been recorded on video. The jury of course had to watch the grisly thing and listen to the heart-rending testimony of the survivors. But as they deliberated, peals of laughter could be heard coming from the jury room.

rightwingprof said...

"Pretty disrespectful to the dead woman's family, the ensuing publicity."

The Behrmans haven't had any privacy for six years solid. I suspect they're glad that finally, someone was apprehended and convicted of their daughter's murder, after so much time and several false suspects.

Shanna said...

You put a bunch of people together who can't talk about the reason they're all together. Can they read the newspapers or watch tv?

Whatever, when you put bored people together, they may try to entertain themselves. Big deal.

It's silly to get into some moral outrage on this. They didn't kill anyone and as far as we know they did their best job while in the jury room. Whatever they did at night has no bearing on the case or the job they did while in the trial and jury room.

Derve said...

tjl, rwp, shanna:

Ask yourselves if that was your dead child, whether you would want this kind of publicity associated with her name?

If so, party on! And no need to keep it low key, publicize away.

MadisonMan said...

tjl -- I laugh and joke when under stress. And I certainly consider watching grisly video and hearing heart-wrenching testimony to be stressful. I don't find the jury's behavior at all surprising.

Shanna said...

Ask yourselves if that was your dead child, whether you would want this kind of publicity associated with her name?
I'd be way more concerned with the outcomes of the trial than with what the jurors did while sequestered. Unless they were taking bribes from the defense, I don't see the relevance.

Shanna said...

I laugh and joke when under stress. And I certainly consider watching grisly video and hearing heart-wrenching testimony to be stressful.

Exactly. Some people are affected by death that way. I know when my grandmother died, we spent the day telling funny stories about her. It didn't mean we weren't sad.

Anonymous said...

"Can we do anything about CNN.com?"

Sure. Never turn on the channel and never go to the web site.

But then I have already taken those steps!

Trey

mikeski said...

As someone who's been both a prosecutor and a juror, I'm not surprised in the least by this.

I was sequestered for two days on a horrific assault case. We listened to detailed eyewitness and medical testimony and viewed graphic photos. Of course, we weren't allowed to discuss any of this until after the Judge's instructions at the end of the case, and then only in the jury room.

So you have people cooped up in a strange place with no TV, no newspapers and no phone calls allowed, unable to discuss the one topic they share in common and the one topic that is the entire focus of their lives at that time. Most of us were going crazy by the middle of the second day; I can't imagine what it would be like for two weeks.

However, we all understood that when it was time to deliberate, that's what we had to do, and I was impressed at how seriously everyone took their oath.

And, Derve, from the other side, I can tell you that, as a prosecutor, what the victim and/or the family want is that the person(s) who did it be convicted. Period.

Troy said...

12 Bored Men

David said...

It must be ratings week for CNN.com. Their salacious reporting to attrack readers should be of more concern to the defense attorney that the behavior of jurors letting off a little steam.

When the defense attorney has no case he starts grasping at straws. I wonder why he didn't play "let's make a deal" before it went to trial? I can picture it now. "This is an outrage and a miscarriage of justice that will be righted on appeal to the Supreme Court, by GOD! Here's my bill!"

knoxgirl said...

12 Bored Men

LOL! I'm picturing the earnest Henry Fonda with heels on...

Ann Althouse said...

These people did nothing wrong. They were performing their civic duty and taking on unusual burdens putting up with sequestration. For CNN to hold them up to public shame is outrageous.

So you think that in the proximity of news of murder, you're never supposed to laugh and enjoy your life? That's absurd. Why not spend your entire life crying? Death is everywhere, and you're going to die. Better start moping now to demonstrate your awareness of the profundity of it all.

Derve said...

So you think that in the proximity of news of murder, you're never supposed to laugh and enjoy your life? That's absurd. Why not spend your entire life crying?

That's quite a slippery slope.

Myself, I can see a distinction between jurors crying all the time, and acting way light-hearted and undignified that it got out in public. Bet some of the jurors were uncomfortable later looking her family members in the eyes, conviction or not.

Tibore said...

I'm mystified to why this is a story at CNN. Getting giggly, racing in high heels, and food fights may be silly behavior, but "Juror's gone wild"? C'mon! How does CNN's headline pin Animal House behavior on that?

Plus, even if you consider that stuff racy - yeah, foodfights, oh, how out of control!... - there's a difference between acting outrageous in public and doing so in places you feel are private, however temporarily so. The story states the behavior happened at the jurors' hotel. If all those things happened, say, in the parking lot, or the hotel lobby, then okay, you can argue that their behavior was flagrantly disrespectful. But if it happened in their rooms, what then? Would it still be a story?

Granted, I don't see anyone having races of any kind, high heel, flat heel, stilleto, moon boots, whatever in the tight confines of a hotel room, so we can at least grant that that was somewhere not totally private. But still... my point is that what they've published is hardly "juror's gone wild". So unless CNN's understated some of the behavior, or is leaving things out, then to me, this is overblown.

Tibore said...

... and in my self defense as a Bloomington resident: The trial was moved up to Morgan County, and I presume the jurors were choosen from that population. So no, us Bloomington-ites don't party like them wild 'n' crazy Martinsville folks. At least, not since some've us turned our ankles trying to race each other in high heels... ;)

reader_iam said...

Maybe CNN reporters/staff are different. But I can remember lots of gallows humor, and more, while working as a journalist and covering some sad stuff (including murders, plural). Or just in the newsroom, generally. This story strikes me as a little cynical and self-righteous, given the jokes I've heard journalists make over time.

Cops do the same thing. Sometimes doctors. I assume lawyers, on occasion, in certain areas of practice?

It's human.

I'd like to to think I wouldn't have behaved in the same way as these jurors (my days of running in heels are definitely over, anyway), but I don't think it has bearing on their ability to deliberate. Nor do I think it says anything whatsoever with regard to their respect for the victim.

vh: godtnr

Bissage said...

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

--- Roald Dahl (or Willie Wonka, or Gene Wilder, or somebody or other)

Eli Blake said...

I'm an adult and I don't get into food fights as part of my daily routine. This does sound like pretty juvenile behavior, so the question also comes up whether this jury had the maturity to decide a murder case.

Anonymous said...

I'm an adult and I don't get into food fights as part of my daily routine.

Is being cooped up inside a hotel with no access to the outside world part of your daily routine?

Anonymous said...

Derve wrote:
Ask yourselves if that was your dead child, whether you would want this kind of publicity associated with her name?

Derve, have you ever heard of media outlets exercising editorial judgement about whether a story has genuine news value? And when it comes to turning the judicial process into a degraded and degrading freakshow, I'd respectfully suggest CNN's moral high horse is only fit for glue and pet food.

Derve said...

I don't get cable. Maybe that's it. Not much stomach for that -- I turned off the tv mid-OJ chase, too, thought we'd be seeing splatter. News and entertainment blur, I keep forgetting.

Troy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tjl said...

"Bet some of the jurors were uncomfortable later looking her family members in the eyes."

Derve, I bet you've never served on a jury or you wouldn't be making these unrealistic demands. Do you have any idea what sacrifices we ask of jurors? They have to take big chunks of time off from work, studies, or whatever, for which they get only nominal pay. They have to sit through long hours of testimony, much of which is boring or repulsive in nature. They must retire to the jury room whenever certain legal issues need to be resolved outside their presence -- meaning interminable and (to them) incomprehensible delays in the progress of the trial. Finally, they are expected to take very seriously the duty that has been laid on them to do justice -- and amazingly, they always do take their duty seriously.

Our justice system asks so much of jurors as it is -- surely they've earned the right to cut up a little, and not have to wear sackcloth and ashes for the duration of the trial?

Cat said...

I once sat on month long murder trial. When it was time to deliberate, we were sequestered. It is horrible.

You have to be wih people you don't know and and may not like 24 hours a day for two weeks. That's right, ROOM with STRANGERS.

You can't go to the bathroom with out escort or you all have to go as a group.

If you're done eating dinner at the disgusting (my plate was dirty - food from another meal still on it) roach motel, you are not allowed to retire until everyone has finished eating, smoking, whatever(my princess of room mate woke me up to tell me about the roaches in our room expecting me to kill them then I couldn't sleep).

OH, and no hot water in the hotels we were in two nights in a row (I complained to the judge and she demanded the officers find better lodging on the $50 a night NY State is willing to pay for a room in NY City).

12 angry men? A fight broke out when a juror who was getting excited (it was loud in that FILTHY bare room with no carpet) making her point was slapped in the face by a woman who though she needed to "snap out of it."

It was awful. Nothing "classy" about my confinement Derve.

If those jurors were able to let off some steam after being caged together like animals for two weeks and 24hours a day, good for them.

We never forgot what we were there for (it took a week to come to a verdict), but lack of excercise, fresh air and a good nights sleep makes you crazy. I mean it, crazy. Even inmates get to go to the gym and have "yard" time.

Derve said...

Waah. Waah. Waah.
Geez, you'd think they asked you folks to carry a gun or something.

Paco Wové said...

Mmmm-mmmm. Really feelin' the love here at Althouse today...

Revenant said...

Waah. Waah. Waah.
Geez, you'd think they asked you folks to carry a gun or something.


Eh? You're the one throwing a temper tantrum over juries not being classy enough for your refined tastes.

I've got no problem serving on a jury, and no problem acting however the heck I feel like in my free time while on one. I was just mocking your "you don't *deserve* to be on a classy jury" attitude -- like being on jury duty was some sort of awesome reward that I should be sad on missing out on? Heh.