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Judge Closes Online Access To Info On Civil Case

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the need-not-to-know dept.

Censorship 64

Ponca City, We love you writes "The Tulsa World reports that Judge Linda Morrissey has ordered online access to information about a civil case locked up on the court website for the duration of a retrial out of concern that jurors might access earlier trial information and be prejudiced. The first trial, which focused on a death amid allegations of negligent medical care, wound up in a mistrial because jurors did not reach a verdict. Lawyers involved in the second trial agreed to the order because they were concerned that jurors could be influenced by getting information from a record of events in a case filed in February 2007 that could be inadmissible as trial evidence. Morrissey routinely gives strong admonitions to jurors that they not search the Internet for information about a case being tried. But not everyone agrees with the judge's closing of court records. The lawyers involved in the trial 'don't represent the public's interest in those records,' says Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University who writes for FOI Oklahoma, adding that what might be convenient to trial participants does not outweigh 'the public's right or need to know.'"

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64 comments

Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (5, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083476)

FTFS

online access to information about a civil case locked up on the court website for the duration of a retrial

Only for the duration of the retrial. Surely people have other things to lookup on the internet besides this case while this is being retried, don't they?

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32083520)

Precedent!
this decision will be used to stifle access in other cases.
Jurors can judge a case on its merits.
Please do not patronise them.

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (3, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083732)

All it takes is one juror who thinks they are "smarter" than the rest, or who can "remain objective" when they peek at the forbidden fruit, or who wants to play Matlock, to set the clock back and send this to a 3rd trial.

Does this set a precedent? Maybe. But court records are sealed all the time, so a temporary lockdown isn't anything new.

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

LoyalOpposition (168041) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083972)

All it takes is one juror who thinks they are "smarter" than the rest

How is it that we can trust jurors to make life-or-death decisions regarding the facts of the case, but we can't trust them with information on the internet?

~Loyal

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32084218)

Jurors don't know the law. They're not expected to. They're supposed to determine fact based on what has been presented. There's a lot of reasons why they shouldn't privately be doing the job that the lawyers are supposed to do. Some things may be inadmissible. Some "facts" may be irrelevant or simply wrong.

Now, I'm all for having intelligent people, experts in relevant fields on the jury to process the information presented. But they absolutely should not be bringing outside information about the specific case or the people involved. If it wasn't presented in court, it's very likely not relevant to the very specific decision they need to make.

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

medcalf (68293) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084270)

Um, how is it that we expect defendants to know the entirety of the law (ignorantia legis nemenem excusat), but not jurors? But that said, I think it's right to seal the earlier records during the trial; the jurors have to decide based on what is presented: they are not investigators. The thing that people seem to forget is that these trial procedures are what they are for a very good reason. People have been trying to break the trial system in their favor for hundreds of years, and the procedures we use have been evolved to prevent those problems.

Seated jury (1)

tivoKlr (659818) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084240)

I guess when some of the information on the internet is going to be excluded from the retrial, it would be prudent to restrict access to said evidence until a jury has been seated. Once this process has completed, it would then seem to be fair to reopen the files to the public with the strict instruction from the judge to the jury and alternates forbidding them from accessing the prior case files.

Man, I should be a lawyer. I get this stuff! :-p

Re:Seated jury (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 3 years ago | (#32087334)

If you just say "don't do it", someone will do it.

Re:Seated jury (1)

MarbleMunkey (1495379) | more than 3 years ago | (#32088020)

and then someone will go to jail for being in contempt of court.

Lay that out clearly and bluntly to the jurors. After that, you have to assume that we are all grownups who can make up our own minds.

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#32088402)

Do you also beleive that there should be no authority to decide what evidence is admissable in the courtroom? Why shouldn't the jorors be trusted with whatever information each lawyer decides to present? Why shouldn't the jurors be trusted with the opinions of their friends and family who are not on the jury?

Jurors are human. Therefore they are emotional and subject to bias. Part of the court's job is to decide what information they are allowed to have when they make their decision, end of story.

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

sabre86 (730704) | more than 3 years ago | (#32089550)

Jurors are human. Therefore they are emotional and subject to bias. Part of the court's job is to decide what information they are allowed to have when they make their decision, end of story.

The court is just as human as the jurors and thus emotional and subject to bias. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? [wikipedia.org]

--sabre86

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#32091630)

Sorry, it's not worth my time to keep chasing through this rabbit hole that is your lack of understanding of the judicial system. I suggest you go educate yourself.

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

sabre86 (730704) | more than 3 years ago | (#32092488)

I feel I'm pretty well educated about the US legal system, at least. I'm aware that the courts (once again, a group of people) consider themselves to be the finders of law and the juries to be the finders of fact, at least in the US. I'm aware that juries can be tainted with prejudice and misinformation. Hell, that's half the art of courtroom lawyering. And yes, the judge's job is to moderate the effect of a jury's potential biases. That doesn't make my statement any less true, though. Judges can be just as tainted.

Sorry, it's not worth my time to keep chasing through this rabbit hole that is your lack of understanding of the judicial system.

Then why respond at all, particularly with such a insubstantial, insulting statement? You don't have the time to educate, only to belittle? I suspect instead you don't actually have a constructive argument.

--sabre86

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

Bugamn (1769722) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083532)

What? Something more important than an data that is forbidden to be seen? Impossible!

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

kenj0418 (230916) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083908)

Also FTFS:

online access to information about a civil case locked up on the court website for the duration of a retrial

This implies that anyone (who is not a juror on this case) can go to the courthouse and review the case history as needed -- just like they would have had to before the online access was available. I think disallowing online access for the duration of the trial is a pretty reasonable restriction. It doesn't prevent anyone (except the jurors) from seeing anything - it only makes it less convenient.

HOWEVER, the TFS is misleading, as the TFA says "an order that would remove the docket sheet from the public access during the pendency of the trial" it is only limited to the online access in the crappy summary. Preventing non-jurors from viewing what is supposed to be public information is overkill.

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#32087986)

I think disallowing online access for the duration of the trial is a pretty reasonable restriction.

Agreed. But as an aside, I think too much tends to be made of the public's so-called "right to know". Matters of public record like court cases are perfectly admissible, while prurient spying on individuals is an entirely different issue.

Re:Only For The Duration Of The Retrail (1)

ps2os2 (1216366) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104062)

I agree it is not too bad if it is only during the retrial.

Having said that... About 15 years ago I was up for jury selection. After a couple of questions I was excluded from jury duty in this one case as apparently I worked in the IT department of the hospital where the patient was treated for dog bites. The lawyer thought I could get access to the patients records. I thought it was ridiculous as I had zero access to any patient records. Heck I couldn't even sign on to the system.
Go figure.

The rights of the accused vs the public (5, Insightful)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083512)

The judge is there to make sure all parties get a fair trial. In this case, that concern outweighs the need for public oversight of trial proceedings. It's not like the records are being expunged, afterall.

Re:The rights of the accused vs the public (1)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083540)

And it is not like the public can't oversee the current trial. This should be done for every trial it applies to.

Re:The rights of the accused vs the public (4, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083562)

"Public oversight" comes after the trial, anyhow. During the trial, it can't do anything but mess things up.

After the trial, it can reverse a wrongful conviction.

In no case could it ever convict someone who was wrong found 'not guilty'.

Re:The rights of the accused vs the public (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32085966)

After the trial, it can reverse a wrongful conviction. In no case could it ever convict someone who was wrong found 'not guilty'.

Wow. People don't even read the titles carefully anymore!

Judge Closes Online Access To Info On Civil Case

Re:The rights of the accused vs the public (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083774)

But if the jury is made of people too dumb to be able to correctly understand that some informations are not reliable even when warned against them, there is a problem in its composition, too. If the judge wants to warn against some information, he just has to add informations and warnings. There will be truth and lies mixed in the speech of lawyers that the jury will hear. Lawyers are professional liars. You ask a jury to find the truth between lawyers' speech and you don't trust them to sort good and bad information from internet ? Isn't there a contradiction there ?

Re:The rights of the accused vs the public (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084718)

The judge doesn't want the jury rereading the arguments from the first case. Which makes sense, because that trial resulted in a mistrial; I'm sure she's trying to avoid the same thing happening this time.

that's the great thing about the Internet... (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083524)

...it's impossible to keep archives [archive.org] of old web pages, or for anyone to download and mirror content.

Now jurors are more likely to know that there's information out there that they're "not allowed" to read. Which is fine - as a juror I might do as I'm told to prevent my becoming prejudiced - unless I've just found out that the information has been hidden from everyone, in which case I might consider it my duty to read the information anyway.

Re:that's the great thing about the Internet... (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#32085176)

Disobeying a judge is contempt of court, no matter how clever it may seem to be at the time.

Re:that's the great thing about the Internet... (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#32089908)

Proving that a juror disobeyed the judge, or indeed that a whole jury based its decision by a manner other than as the judge directed, is fairly hard. Which is good, because it's another check on government abuse, and abuse by a juror is by immediate consequence of the jury system less systematic than abuse by government.

(Of course, every human is biased and prejudiced and puts his own spin on the case; he is a liar or in deep denial if he claims otherwise. The pragmatic aim is for the court and 11 strangers to minimise this.)

this is completely normal (5, Interesting)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083544)

i had jury duty a few years ago for a criminal drug case. we weren't supposed to look up any information on the internet about the case either. only use what we heard in the courtroom. even though this was a small time drug dealer.

i was curious and found that the NYPD has arrest records online. the guy on trial had 10 or so other cases against him at the same time including weapons possesion. can't remember if the cops found the weapons at the same time as the drugs, but it was a separate trial. of course i never told any of the other jurors and we ended up finding the guy not guilty even though i thought he was guilty. but based on the evidence presented at trial, he was not guilty.

this is how the american judicial system works. we have a constitution that says that evidence has to be gathered in accordance with the law otherwise it's tossed out

Re:this is completely normal (3, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083578)

I agree. "Gut feeling" has no place in a jury box. For that matter, "logic" has a very limited place as well. Evidence is what really matters.

"Better 10 Guilty Men Go Free than to Convict a Single Innocent Man"

Re:this is completely normal (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32083642)

The unconvicted guilty will get convicted sooner or later. If they were stupid enough to be in court once, they're stupid enough to end up in court again.

The poor innocent man will end up in prison for something they didn't do and could end up dead from it since prisoners will completely rail on a prisoner if they've been convicted of certain crimes (like kiddy rape) and prisoners can be a very resourceful lot when they put their minds to it.

Re:this is completely normal (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084300)

Oh, purleeease. In most cases, what matters is access to the best legal representation. If you're going to believe only what the judge allows on the record, you might as well just have both sides pile their money on the table, and rule on which pile is higher.

Re:this is completely normal (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 3 years ago | (#32095628)

I like that last sentence.

Surprised you could read it, considering that you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32100452)

Don't even have any degrees in law, computer science or computer information systems. You're just another "slashdot wannabe expert" and we know it.

Re:Surprised you could read it, considering that y (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32104008)

Oh look, it's the troll that's been stalking Clone53421, Squiggleslash, and Tom Hudson, and now GMHowell.

For those new to this, the troll is someone claiming to be a defender of a certain Alexander Peter Kowalski, the author of a tool, apkapp2backgrounddaemonprocessengine, generally considered malware by a large number of anti-malware companies and organizations.

CA [ca.com]
PestPatrol [pestpatrol.com]
SpywareDB [spywaredb.com] ("Dangerous!")
Freedom Anti-Spyware [freedom.net]
Spycheck (Spanish-language) : "Recomendacion: DESACTIVAR Y ELIMINAR" [spycheck.es]
Spyware No-More [spynomore.com] ("Threat risk: High risk", "Advice: Remove This is a very high risk threat and should be removed immediately as to prevent harm to your computer and / or to protect your privacy")

Mr Kowalski, or his admirer, got upset because someone had the audacity to link to a threat describing Kowalski's attempts to remove some embarrassing comments posted under his name [jeremyreimer.com] . Rather than deal with it maturely, this person has been attempting to stalk said poster and those who pointed out Kowalski wasn't doing himself any favors.

So if you see these comments posted as replies to clone [slashdot.org] , squiggleslash [slashdot.org] , Tom Hudson [slashdot.org] , or GM Howell [slashdot.org] , now you know why they're appearing. And if you feel like joining in, well, come on in, the water's lovely!

gmhowell's now replying as AC to avoid answering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32110412)

Do you have a degree in CSC or CIS gmhowell? No?? We thought not. You're by no means an expert to comment on anything in the art and sciences of computing then. The same things you note have happened to others that write good softwares, such as Dr. Mark Russinovich of Microsoft even and also Nir Sofer of Nirsoft, to name only a couple. Your lack of expertise is showing itself gmhowell. Go get a degree and then get back to us, because until then? Your credibility as an expert is non-existent.

Re:gmhowell's now replying as AC to avoid answerin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32133862)

How those qualifications stack up. This is a comparison of the known qualifications of each of the individuals APK is stalking with APK:

Has written software generally considered Malware?
Clone: No
Squiggleslash: No
Tom Hudson: No
Red Flayer: No
GMHowell: No
Alexander Peter Kowalski: YES

Failed English language courses at school? (Or should have done, given inability to spell or use standard English grammar)
Clone: No
Squiggleslash: No
Tom Hudson: No
Red Flayer: No
GMHowell: No
Alexander Peter Kowalski: YES

Harasses critics?
Clone: No
Squiggleslash: No
Tom Hudson: No
Red Flayer: No
GMHowell: No
Alexander Peter Kowalski: YES

Promotes bogus "anti-virus" scheme that by own admission doesn't work and lulls users into false sense of security?
Clone: No
Squiggleslash: No
Tom Hudson: No
Red Flayer: No
GMHowell: No
Alexander Peter Kowalski: YES

Is unable to make friends in real life and uses sock-puppets instead?
Clone: No
Squiggleslash: No
Tom Hudson: No
Red Flayer: No
GMHowell: No
Alexander Peter Kowalski: YES

Unable to get a real, paying, job and forced to sell self-written crapware instead?
Clone: No
Squiggleslash: No
Tom Hudson: No
Red Flayer: No
GMHowell: No
Alexander Peter Kowalski: YES

Lifelong open misogyny leading to lifelong virginity?
Clone: No
Squiggleslash: No
Tom Hudson: No
Red Flayer: No
GMHowell: No
Alexander Peter Kowalski: YES

Re:this is completely normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32086608)

Logic has every place in the jury box.

I recently found myself on jury duty and had they bothered to put me on a panel I was fully prepared to vote not guilty based on whether I thought the law made any sense at all. The job of a juror is to find justice not just follow the law to the letter.

Re:this is completely normal (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084420)

I was curious and found that the NYPD has arrest records online. the guy on trial had 10 or so other cases against him at the same time including weapons possession. can't remember if the cops found the weapons at the same time as the drugs, but it was a separate trial. of course i never told any of the other jurors and we ended up finding the guy not guilty even though i thought he was guilty. but based on the evidence presented at trial, he was not guilty.

I don't know exactly what the rules are in New York, but in Ohio you would be in violation of your oath as a juror, and have demonstrated exactly why this legal decision by the judge was absolutely correct.

For starters, an arrest record or other charges prove nothing about the defendant. They only prove that the police and/or prosecutor's office thought that the defendant committed some other crimes, not that he actually did commit a crime. For all you know, the real problem was that the defendant was sleeping with the prosecutor's wife. Another factor is that any other evidence you found from, say, news reports, could have been thrown out at trial due to violations of the defendant's constitutional rights.

Secondly, and more importantly, you said yourself that you thought he was guilty despite insufficient evidence presented in court to make that determination. If you had told the other jurors and convicted the defendant based on your non-evidence, you could well have sent an innocent man to jail. In addition, if there had been sufficient evidence to convict at trial, but you told the other jurors about what you found, you just gave a guilty man grounds for mistrial, which would allow him to return to the streets.

In short, there are very good reasons for the rules that you may think are stupid, oppressive, etc.

Re:this is completely normal (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#32085250)

he returned to the streets anyway. and he was arrested with something like 10 automatic weapons in his trunk. he told the cops that he was going to buy diapers for his daughter at midnight. the cops chased him for a few miles before he stopped or they forced him off the road.

funny thing was that he was black and the black people on the jury who lived close to him wanted to convict. us white people who lived in better areas said there wasn't enough evidence

Re:this is completely normal (2, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#32085664)

All that says is that he was probably guilty of weapons charges and evading police. Nothing in what you said proved drug charges, which is what you were responsible for deciding. The key here is that your job as a juror is to decide "Did Mr Jones do XYZ?", not "Is Mr Jones a criminal?"

You have to trust that if he's guilty of evading police (for instance), another jury will convict him of that, or a plea bargain will happen to lock him up.

Re:this is completely normal (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#32087908)

In short, there are very good reasons for the rules that you may think are stupid, oppressive, etc.

I don't think he ever claimed that there wasn't a reason for them, although I'd debate whether the rules aren't still "stupid."

This guy's story is exactly the reason why information shouldn't be withheld from jurors to the degree that it is. He knew about the other charges, and yet he still weighed the evidence and found it insufficient to sustain a conviction.

Maybe some jurors would be too dumb to be the same. I'm not quite sure why we let them sit on panels if we think they're so dumb in the first place.

If I were on a jury I'd feel bound to do what is right. That certainly would include not finding somebody guilty of a crime as defined by the judge if there were not evidence to sustain this charge, but it would not necessarily be limited to only this responsibility. In any case, as a working person with half a brain I doubt I'll ever serve on a jury again.

Re:this is completely normal (1)

MacAndrew (463832) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084626)

I admit I was relieved to hear you acquitted the guy -- so it's moot whether you were prejudiced. But otherwise your independent research squarely violated the rules. It could have cut the other way, too: If you'd convicted the guy on the merits and your independent research come to light, it could have caused a mistrial.

Generally "bad acts," including prior convictions, are not admissible because they are so deeply prejudicial; so the prosecutor couldn't have brought them in, either. The ideal is that trial be about the present issue, not a probability calculation based on the defendant's "badness" -- although in some cases like yours it may seem pretty ridiculous. On the other hand, in some places getting arrested for no reason is pretty common.

I think you implicitly respect the rule because you say "of course [you] never told any of the other jurors." So you trusted yourelf but not them. No harm, no foul here, but not a good thing to be doing. (Concession: I'm an attorney who has *almost* served on several juries, so I don't quite know what it's like; but I think I would find the temptation to poke around very strong, especially if I thought counsel was doing a crappy job.)

Re:this is completely normal (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#32085130)

in the US you need 12/12 jurors to convict or find not guilty. anything else is a mistrial. worst i could have done is caused a mistrial by telling the other jurors who would have told the judge. and got myself thrown in jail

Re:this is completely normal (1)

MacAndrew (463832) | more than 3 years ago | (#32087024)

BTW, unanimous 12 is the federal criminal rule. State practice on size varies, as low as 6 iirc, though for criminal trials it's always a unanimous verdict. A mistrial is a bad thing, expensive and draws out the case.

But as I said, the extra info could not caused the outcome, and acquittal is usually binding anyway (double jeopardy).

Re:this is completely normal (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#32085170)

i don't remember the details, but i think when the perp was arrested they found drugs and guns. and for whatever reason they were having separate trials for the different charges. he was also arrested several times during a one or two year period for drugs and guns. only reason we didn't convict was the cops didn't bring enough evidence or it was tossed out. who knows? don't really care since he's probably dead or spending all his drug profits on his legal team. his lawyer wore some very nice suits for going to one of the worst law schools in the US. actually made me interested in going to law school.

from the need-not-to-know dept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32083624)

Does the same mindset apply when Slashdot posts blatant Slashvertisements? What kind of deals are being cut behind the scenes? Or does this implied indignant outrage only apply to the courtroom? Information wants to be free, right?

Distintuishing Means and Ends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32083736)

Court records are public to ensure a fair trial with review. In this case the right to a fair trial is better served by temporarily locking the files. Remember that the purpose is to ensure a fair trial... and that access to these records is only a means to that end.

Freedom of the Press (3, Insightful)

dcw3 (649211) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083766)

Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University who writes for FOI Oklahoma, adding that what might be convenient to trial participants does not outweigh 'the public's right or need to know.'"

Freedom of the press does not give the media free reign to interfere with other peoples rights, such as the right to a fair trial. The statement about the public's right or need to know is nothing but self-serving propaganda. Take your 15 minutes of fame, and go away.

Re:Freedom of the Press (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32084002)

Freedom of the press does not give the media free reign to interfere

You mean free rein [reference.com] .

Re:Freedom of the Press (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32084182)

Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University

Oh, a real expert. Quiet everyone, the associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University has something to say!

Re:Freedom of the Press (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32085108)

Joey Senat is a professor of journalism, not law or philosophy, so his statements in this regard don't mean jack. For that matter the belief that the public has the right/need to know completely ignores the fact that the public needs:
1. the ability to think about the information without bias.
2. have access to unbiased information which is not likely something they would get through the trial itself.
  - MaloS

Re:Freedom of the Press (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#32085808)

In fact, since getting your name mentioned in the paper in relation to a crime can be so prejudicial (not just to a jury, but also to potential employers and the like), there's a good argument that no suspect or defendant should be named in the press until either they are convicted of a crime or the defendant specifically allows it. Many countries in fact have exactly that sort of rule, and the US has that rule for juvenile offenders as well.

Prejudiced? (0)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083828)

It all goes back to the fact that the defense, prosecution and judge want to mold the mind of the jury. The judge can't stand the idea that the jury might want to research what other judges say the law means, what the legal code actually says in raw text, what happened, etc. The judge, and in many ways, the prosecution and defense all fight to be the power behind the throne (the jury).

I can think of many cases off the top of my head where a jury SHOULD be prejudiced, irrespective of what the judge says. If a juror finds out that an "expert witness" has a history of sending people to prison on testimony that sounds like pure equine ejectus, they should regard the man as a pathological liar. Just look up "Stephen Hayne bit mark evidence" on Google for a really good, sleazy example (my all time favorite, though is the "forensics expert" who calculated by the angle of a gun shot wound that it took two shooters holding the same gun to pull it off).

Re:Prejudiced? (2, Insightful)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083940)

I can think of many cases off the top of my head where a jury SHOULD be prejudiced, irrespective of what the judge says. If a juror finds out that an "expert witness" has a history of sending people to prison on testimony that sounds like pure equine ejectus, they should regard the man as a pathological liar. Just look up "Stephen Hayne bit mark evidence" on Google for a really good, sleazy example (my all time favorite, though is the "forensics expert" who calculated by the angle of a gun shot wound that it took two shooters holding the same gun to pull it off).

The US has an adverserial justice system. In other words, if 1 side puts a sleazy dirtbag on the witness stand, it's the opposing council's job to show this during cross-examination.

And expert witnesses don't send anyone to prison, that's the job of the judge and jury.

Re:Prejudiced? (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083958)

It all goes back to the fact that the defense, prosecution and judge want to mold the mind of the jury. The judge can't stand the idea that the jury might want to research what other judges say the law means, what the legal code actually says in raw text, what happened, etc.

The problem is, when it comes to legal interpretation incomplete understanding is dangerous. Look at the average slashdotter, who I would characterize as smarter and better-educated than the average American juror, yet repeatedly get the law completely wrong.

Take a look in the mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32083968)

It all goes back to the fact that the defense, prosecution and judge want to mold the mind of the jury. The judge can't stand the idea that the jury might want to research what other judges say the law means, what the legal code actually says in raw text, what happened, etc.

<snip />

You seem to have inside knowledge into what Judge Morrissey is thinking. This makes you one of: God, Linda Morrissey, someone she has shared these details with, or an arrogant and presumptuous person. I have my guess.

OTOH, I have met her and can say she is a competent and respectable judge; certainly disposed to handling trials with fairness.

Must protect our rights (1, Insightful)

realsilly (186931) | more than 3 years ago | (#32083904)

As much as I personnally believe that criminals get off too easily from the crimes that they commit, I understand why the judge asked for this and why all judges should. The reason is so that people don't get railroaded or blamed for a crime that they potentially did not commit. If I stole a car regardless of the reason and I'm being blames in two other situations for stealing two other cars which puts me in three cases at once. Well since our laws dictact innocent until proven guilty. I'm am therefore entitled to a fair and unbiased trial. If the jurors of one trial knew of the other court case, they could presumably assume I'm guilty of the first and ignore any evidence to the contrary. If they don't know about the other cases and find me innocent which I might be then I've been fairly tried.

Now conversely, if you have a guy that is repeat offender of crimes and is in several trial simultaneously, the same still holds true. We must believe in our judicial system to handle things correctly. If the defense attornies are clever enough to take solid convicting evidence and make a juror doubt it, then we must hope that the jury pool works the truth out of the facts and comes to the correct conclusion.

Trust me when I say, you'll want those same protections for you if you should ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of defending yourself at a trial.

Re:Must protect our rights (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084906)

As much as I personnally believe that criminals get off too easily from the crimes that they commit

Very few people get off easily through a trial. Personally I would rather be convicted by jurors who took the time to research my criminal past than by ones who just wanted to decide quickly or who were moved by the prosecutor's oratory.

question (3, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084048)

Why is just about everyone here assuming this is a criminal case when the summary clearly says it's a civil one?

Re:question (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#32085858)

Because the questions about what a jury can and cannot know are very similar between civil and criminal law. It's pretty simple too: the jury is supposed to know what was given as evidence in the courtroom, and nothing else about the facts of the case.

Subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32084248)

Why not allow the records to remain open, but when seating the new jury, ask if any of the prospective jurors have accessed information about the previous case? It's highly unlikely that a random sample of people from the community will have been thus motivated to do so, but if any have, they can be excused. Too sensible a solution, perhaps?

Re:Subject (1)

bartwol (117819) | more than 3 years ago | (#32084552)

Why not [...] ask if any of the prospective jurors have accessed information about the previous case [...] Too sensible a solution, perhaps?

Unhelpfully idealistic, I'd say.

Quite often during trial, despite counter instructions from the court, jurors engage in potentially prejudicial extrajudicial activities including discussing the case with family/friends, reading media accounts, and more recently, doing internet research. Just one juror doing so can taint the deliberations of a jury.

The emphasis here is on the goal of delivering a fair trial to the defendant. Treating jurors with unfettered trust is not helpful toward that end, nor should it be particularly important to anybody else as long as restrictions are reasonably justified. (Note that in particularly exposed cases, we resort to juror sequestration.)

raed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32085144)

http://www.shy22.com
http://www.anz7.com

The Mystery is Revealed (2, Interesting)

Protoslo (752870) | more than 3 years ago | (#32087258)

I am fairly certain that Cameron et al. v. St. Francis Hospital et al. [oscn.net] was the case alluded to but never actually mentioned in the article. It is, anyway, the only malpractice suit that went to trial under Judge Morrissey in the past month (and ended in a mistrial from a hung jury). It began in 2/07, which is also consistent with the article. The lawsuit appears to regard a man whose heart attack was (allegedly) misdiagnosed by the hospital, (allegedly) contributing to his death. Its case summary is some seriously dry stuff, and this is the only remotely controversial information in it:

11-25-2009 CTFREE - 72943283 Nov 25 2009 1:53:28:810PM - $ 0.00
MORRISSEY, LINDA G.: ORDER ENTERED. DEFENDANT ST. FRANCIS' MOTION TO RECONSIDER IS DENIED. THE COURT CANNOT WEIGH THE EVIDENCE OR ITS CREDIBILITY AND THERE IS TESTIMONY THAT THREE EKG'S SHOW A PATTERN OF MYOCARDIAL ISCHEMIA AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN PRESENTED. IF THE JURY WERE TO BELIEVE THAT THREE EKG'S SUGGEST THAT MR. CAMERON WAS HAVING A HEART ATTACK THEN IT IS REASONABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT THEY MAY NOT BELIEVE A DOCTOR WHO SAYS HE WOULD SEND SOMEONE HOME IN MR. CAMERON'S CONDITION. A JURY MAY NOT BELIEVE DR. ANDERSON WHEN HE SAYS HE WOULD NOT HAVE DONE ANYTHING DIFFERENT IF HE HAD SEEN A "PATTERN OF MYOCARDIAL ISCHEMIA" TESTIFIED TO BY PLAINTIFF'S EXPERT WITNESS. A REASONABLE PERSON COULD FIND THAT 1) THE EKG'S SHOW MYOCARDIAL ISCHEMIA; 2) THAT DR. ANDERSON SHOULD NOT HAVE RELEASED MR. CAMERON TO HIS HOME WHILE SUFFERING A HEART ATTACH; 3) THAT MR. CAMERON LOST A SIGNIFICANT CHANCE OF SURVIVAL BECAUSE HIS HEART ATTACK WAS NOT DETECTED TIMELY, AT LEAST IN PART BY THE FACT THAT ALL EKG'S WERE NOT PRESENTED AND THAT 4) ST. FRANCIS BREACHED THE STANDARD OF CARE. PLAINTIFF'S BURDEN AT THIS STAGE IS TO DEMONSTRATE A CONFLICT OF FACTS AND/OR THE REASONABLE INFERENCES WHICH MAY BE REACHED FROM THEM. IT CANNOT BE FOUND AT THIS TIME THAT THERE IS NO MATERIAL QUESTION OF FACT AS TO THE PLAINTIFF'S NEGLIGENCE CLAIM AGAINST ST. FRANCIS. COPY OF THIS MINUTE WAS MAILED TO DAVID G. GRAVES AND BRAD SMITH; LISA RIGGS AND RICHARD GANN; AMY KEMPFERT AND JOHN BOWLING.

That was the reason that the plaintiff's motion to quash,

10-05-2009 MOQ - CAMERON, PAM 72291829 Oct 6 2009 8:47:07:537AM - $ 0.00
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM // CERTIFICATE OF MAILING (C2J)

was granted. Every other entry except for the description of the jury and trail outcome is labeled merely, "Document Available at Court Clerk's Office."

I (finally) found this record buried in the Oklahoma State Courts Network database, so it wouldn't be cached by Google or archive.org. There (unsurprisingly) doesn't seem to have been any contemporaneous reporting on the case's developments, so closing the record for the duration of the trial would have been completely effective in preventing jury contamination. Just by reading the ruling, I am not entirely sure what it means or what legal principle it implements, so I will easily grant that it would have been prejudicial as hell to a jury; probably not in a rational, predictable way, either.

Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University, said this court order "is essentially closing off court records from the public."

"If she is going to close off court records, she should have a compelling reason to justify it," said Senat, a former president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc., a watchdog group supporting openness in government.

A compelling reason...like hiding rulings about suppressed evidence from the jury. Right. No need to explore that dimension in the article, of course, that would be too much work. Or perhaps Senat actually is familiar with the case he is pontificating on, and just does not deign to reveal why this reason is not compelling for inscrutable reasons of his own.

Since the trial was over when Tulsa World broke this story, I have no idea why they chose to make me laboriously hunt [oscn.net] through the Tulsa County docket for Judge Morrissey, day by day, until I found the right trial. Jury contamination was no longer possible, so I must conclude that Tulsa World hates and/or despises their readers. A better article might have discussed the ruling at issue, its actual meaning, and the prejudicial and/or incorrect meanings that a jury might (or might not) have imputed to it, thus informing readers about how important sealing such records during trials is to promoting fairness.

Who am I kidding? You wouldn't get that kind of reporting in the New York Times.

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