January 30, 2018

Found in the jury room after a guilty verdict: copies of a booklet titled "Behind Closed Doors: A Guide for Jury Deliberations."

This was something one of the jurors downloaded from the American Judicature Society after the first day of deliberations, which she'd found "chaotic." We know this because the judge, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Mark Sanders, had to hold a hearing to determine whether to order a new trial.

But jurors told the judge "they only glanced at or skimmed the pamphlet or didn't read it at all because it seemed to cover things they'd already done, such as picking a foreman and holding a preliminary vote." The jurors had been instructed not to bring in any "outside information," but they didn't think about the pamphlet that way and it was so inconsequential that they didn't think they needed to tell the judge about it.

The judge decided that the jurors had all violated their oath, but the violation was not prejudicial, so no new trial.

The defendant, Brittany Baier, 29, faces life in prison after shooting her boyfriend — Terrance J. Tucker, 27 — to death. Baier presented a "battered woman" defense:
At her trial in October, an expert testified that based on eight hours of interviews, plus several psychological tests, he felt Baier met the definition of a battered woman. He told jurors victims often feel embarrassed to be in such relationships, don't tell friends and family and can react violently when they finally reach a point where they feel their life is threatened and there's no other out.

Baier testified that she fired in desperation after hours of physical and emotional abuse, at gunpoint, prompted by an argument over her accidentally ruining some of the couple's marijuana plants. But Baier didn't call the police. She tried to clean the crime scene and move Tucker's body, reported him missing, then claimed an intruder had killed him and beaten her before finally admitting to the crime.

Court file photo of Baier and Tucker

38 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Once more, Jurors cared so much about doing a fair job that they got creative. What a wonderful thing to see.They deserve an award.

Ann Althouse said...

More information, from an older news story: Tucker was sleeping when Baier shot Tucker in the back of the head. Twice.

"She said he had abused her for years, but that night was the worst, and that he had taken out his gun and kept pointing it at her and threatening he would kill her. When he briefly put the gun down, she said, she lunged for it and shot him.... She had tried to drag his body up the basement steps but failed. Police found it at the bottom of the stairs with a plastic bag over his head and electrical cords wrapped around his torso. They also found evidence of extensive cleanup at the scene...."

I was looking for more information because I wanted to know exactly how Baier had ruined the marijuana plants. Not that I know why that might be relevant. I was curious. Was it something like routine houseplant mismanagement like overwatering or deliberate destruction?

Ann Althouse said...

"When he briefly put the gun down, she said, she lunged for it and shot him" but the prosecutors said she shot him in the back of the head when he was sleeping. I assume the physical evidence showed which story was accurate.

traditionalguy said...

OK, what was the racial composition of this Jury? They convicted the battered white woman who was beaten by the deceased black drug dealer easily enough.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

"When he briefly put the gun down, she said, she lunged for it and shot him" but the prosecutors said she shot him in the back of the head when he was sleeping

Maybe he suffers from narcolepsy.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

That sounds like the kind of thing that should be provided to juries as a guide, and I think it's great that someone took responsibility for researching and clarifying the jury members' roles. I understand why the judge needed to ensure that it was completely neutral information, however, and that on its face it violated the 'no outside info' rule. But maybe this illustrates the need for a handbook of sorts that is routinely issued.

I have been in so many meetings that are 'chaotic' and in which people 'talk past each other.' I can understand the immense frustration with the lack of direction and wasted time. This is why I love chairing and/or presiding over meetings, so I can make sure we stick to the written agenda, keep the discussion focused and pinned to time limits, generate and assign action items and plan for followup checkins, and in general ensure it is a productive use of the group's time.

AllenS said...

Judges like to give the jury instructions, and don't want the jury to get any ideas from a pamphlet.

AJ Lynch said...

Nice sweater!

Fernandistein said...

American Judicature Society

In collusion with the ABA, they promote racism and sexism.

Janet Reno was a member.

Jason said...

I don’t buy the “trapped in an abusive relationship with no way out” defense.

The answer is easy if you take it logically.

There must be 50 ways to leave your lover.

“Shoot him in the head, Ted” isn’t one of them though.

EDH said...

"I was looking for more information because I wanted to know exactly how Baier had ruined the marijuana plants... Was it something like routine houseplant mismanagement like overwatering or deliberate destruction?"

I wouldn't be surprised if her boobs had a lot to do with this entire marital predicament. Maybe she even knocked the plants over with her boobs.

prairie wind said...

Judges like to give the jury instructions, and don't want the jury to get any ideas from a pamphlet.

Judges fear jury nullification and don't want jurors researching their options.

Otto said...

Marijuana plants will do it all the time.

Bob Boyd said...

AJ Lynch said...
"Nice sweater!"

Yeah, see that's exactly how it happens. A guy gets tunnel vision and the next thing you know you've been shot in the head.
Or worse, you wake up one day married to the psycho, but she refuses to shoot you because she's not going to let you off that easy and you have to do it yourself.

sodal ye said...

“Was it something like routine houseplant mismanagement like overwatering or deliberate destruction?”

Pot plants are one of the obvious exceptions to the rule that cultivated plants, indoor or out, thrive on a little neglect, rather than the opposite. You can tell from the look of the leaf structure: they don’t retain moisture. Plus, warmth is everything to them. So easily screwed up.

FleetUSA said...

@I Have Misplaced My Pants: I totally agree. I always run meetings with max 1 hour time limit and stick to the agenda. Too many meetings and speeches run on and on with people liking the sound of their voice.

Jeff Gee said...

I remember years ago at the Volokh Conspiracy, somebody (I think Eugene) saw "12 Angry Men" and he thought it was all absurdly obvious that the kid was guilty. He ran a symposium on it. I can't find it online, but the consensus among the lawyers & profs who took part was (1) you're missing the whole point of the movie and (2) yeah, the kid was guilty. Also, by going shopping on Times Square and bringing the knife into the jury room to demonstrate how easy they were to obtain, Henry Fonda would have triggered an automatic mistrial. The pamphlet thing is maybe not that egregious, but I get the principle.

Also, if you're going to use the battered woman defense, call the cops immediately and don't try to hide the body. Although that was not covered by the 12 Angry Men symposium.

rehajm said...

I always run meetings with max 1 hour time limit and stick to the agenda

Chairs with three legs help, too.

Big Mike said...

I guess shot twice in the back of the head while sound asleep spoiled her efforts to make it look like suicide.

You know, there really are battered women out there, but efforts to apply every case where a woman shoots her husband or lover makes it that much harder to distinguish the real from the phony.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AllenS said...

I dunno, I just can't accept the fact that the woman and the twins are going to prison.

Trumpit said...

"OK, what was the racial composition of this Jury? They convicted the battered white woman who was beaten by the deceased black drug dealer easily enough."

Your local pharmacy has a "black drug dealer," if the pharmacist is black. If you were on the jury, would have voted to give her a medal?

mockturtle said...

Even a 'battered woman' hasn't the right to shoot her boyfriend to death while he sleeps. She should wait until he wakes up.

Seriously, the 'battered woman' murder defense is bogus but, surprisingly, yields some acquittals from mostly male jurors.

Chuck said...

prairie wind said...
"Judges like to give the jury instructions, and don't want the jury to get any ideas from a pamphlet."

Judges fear jury nullification and don't want jurors researching their options.

Judges are required by law to read jury instructions in a jury trial. Counsel from both sides -- prosecution-defendant in a criminal trial and plaintiff-defendant in a civil trial -- go over them in detail before they are read. There are usually standard jury instructions for almost all crimes/torts/causes of action, and standing committees on jury instructions go over them down to each letter and punctuation mark.
It is reversible error in most cases to depart from applicable standard jury instructions. The lawyers know the instructions before a case is filed, and the instructions guide the presentation of the whole case. There are even detailed rules on whether the jury can read printed copies of the instructions -- usually yes, but rarely no.

And absolute, consistent initial jury instruction when jurors are impaneled and sworn in (swearing that they will follow the law including jury instructions) is that they are not to consider things outside of the evidence and arguments presented in court. Most often, jurors are specifically instructed, in varying terms, to not do what that juror did.

This is a new one; Googling a pamphlet for juror deliberation. It must have been really, really moderate and non-committal on anything dealing with that case, else the trial judge would probably have granted the motion for a new trial. Most often, juror impropriety is an absolute basis for a new trial. That's how important this stuff is.

The notion that a couple of you commenters have the level of apparent contempt for jury instructions as indicated above would be shocking to most trial lawyers. You ought to ask somebody in the business before making any conclusions like that.

I see that the trial judge considered holding all of the jurors in contempt; I would have too. The court staff, and particularly whatever low-level person agreed to make copies for the jurors, needs a major re-education.

I suspect that on appeal, this conviction won't stand because of the very high presumption of error with juror misconduct.

William Chadwick said...

Nice rack. She should have stayed out of the illegal drug business and gone into a respectable trade, like stripping or porn.


Craig Landon said...

My theory is she shot him for wearing that tie.

MadisonMan said...

Behind Closed Doors.

And when we get behind closed doors
Then she lets her hair hang down
And she makes me glad that I'm a man
And no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.

DavidD said...

Behind Closed Doors: A Guide for Jury Deliberations

1. Don't bring in any outside material.
2. ...

Yancey Ward said...

The rules are pretty explicit- as a juror you can bring no material to the deliberations that wasn't part of the trial itself. They violated that rule and I think the judge probably should have declared a mistrial even if he thinks the violation wasn't prejudicial.

KK Kraska said...

Jury duty sucks. Shows like Mattlock, which are still rerun, have convinced many people that every prosecution is a plot or error by the PTB, and the diverse members of the jury seem to want to give their cohort every possible break and in my experience the judge's instructions were mostly useless bc no body understood them. (I did jury duty for three trials in the 1990's in Washtenaw county, MI circuit court.) Now I get a doctors note and don't do that shit any more. My predictions: As the US becomes more diverse and the population becomes more Idiocracy-like, juries are gonna have to be replaced by a panel of judges bc fewer and fewer people can suss out exactly what they're supposed to do, and so they go by their feelz, regardless the law or judicial instruction. That or the CJ system itself will collapse.

CWJ said...

"The notion that a couple of you commenters have the level of apparent contempt for jury instructions as indicated above would be shocking to most trial lawyers. You ought to ask somebody in the business before making any conclusions like that."

Snort! Are these trial lawyers or church ladies. As is sometimes said, all professions are conspiracies against the laity.

320Busdriver said...

"He was such a nice boy"

Jupiter said...

Yeah, and he was turning his life around.

Mark said...

The evidence produced at trial is all well and good, but it sounds like the judge, in determining that there was "no prejudice," basically usurped the jury's function in believing the evidence to be so great as to justify a guilty finding.

The right thing to do, if we are at all interested in fair and non-biased legal proceedings (and judging from the last few years of lawlessness in D.C., its easy to conclude that we do not), then the judge should have said to the jury, "Thanks for wasting everyone's time. Now we are going to have to throw out your verdict and spend the time and money to retry this case. Be thankful you are not being held in contempt of court."

Mark said...

Jury instructions are understandable enough, and easy enough to follow. The problem is that people want to do their own thing. Often, in fact, one of the first things to go is that "presumed innocent until proven guilty" silliness, which gets tossed in favor of viewing the case with even scales with defense and prosecution having an equal burden of convincing the jury members who is right.

That's all very acceptable, I'm sure, when it is someone else who is on trial. But when it is you who are accused, I'm also sure that that is a different story.

Jupiter said...

Mark said...
"Jury instructions are understandable enough, and easy enough to follow. The problem is that people want to do their own thing."

Juries were created for precisely that reason.

robinintn said...

Re: the ruined weed. Surely she smoked it.

mockturtle said...

I was once on a hung jury and the whole experience soured me on the jury system. People used all the wrong reasons to reach a verdict. It that case [sex crimes], they were:

1. He's an old man and would probably die in prison, so acquit.
2. I just want to get out of here. Can't we just get this finished?
3. The victims seemed like an unsavory pair.
4. The Prosecutor is an ass.
5. The Defense attorney is much more clever than the Prosecutor.