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Thread: Charles Rhines case: Jurors with questionable motives in capital cases

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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    Charles Rhines case: Jurors with questionable motives in capital cases

    There's a good chance this will become a national controversy a month or so from now.

    About a month from now (this state doesn't set exact dates this far in advance), Charles Rhines is scheduled to be executed in South Dakota. It's undisputed that he committed a very brutal murder. What's controversial is what happened in the juror room during the sentencing phase.

    Rhines is gay, and the jurors knew it. They sent a note to the judge asking specific questions about what life would be like in prison for him, such as if he would have a cellmate or mix with general population, and some noted that "he shouldn't be able to spend his life with men in prison". So, he was sentenced to death.

    The Supreme Court ruled that judges have a right to confront jurors in a case where racial bias was obvious, but that doesn't apply here. As recently as a couple decades ago, in some states, prosecutors would sometimes bring in expert witnesses who would testify that black inmates are more likely to reoffend and thus should be executed. (That doesn't fly anymore, legally, though last I heard, some prisoners who were thus sentenced still remain on death row.) So my question is this: Assuming that the death penalty is not immoral (I'm not looking for that debate here) and that there is no question of innocence, should a death sentence be set aside if jurors had a really bad reason for selecting death?

    Rhines unquestionably committed a horrible crime, the details I won't describe here, and is not a poster boy for sympathy. He deserves to be punished. The question is how.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/sup...te-who-n884196
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    tWebber NorrinRadd's Avatar
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    If we're going to sit in judgment of jurors' reasoning, amend the Constitution to get rid of jury trials. Leave everything up to the judges. They are smarter and better than regular people anyway. If you don't believe me, just ask a few.
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    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Kinda related...

    Several years ago, I saw an article in a police newsletter I receive, that talked about Jury Nullification, and an anticipated new wave of "social justice warriors" managing to ensconce themselves on juries in cases where they could disrupt the system* by their presence on a jury. So far, it appears the law of averages works against them, due to the first step of the jury selection process which, supposedly, is quite random. A dishonest or activist (or both) juror could certainly play havoc in the rendering of a jury's decision.


    *it would be quite easy in many cases to force a "hung jury", or to sway other jurors away from a conviction regardless of the evidence
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    tWebber Mountain Man's Avatar
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    All of this makes a good case for a system of professional jurors who are well versed in legal matters,
    Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
    But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
    Than a fool in the eyes of God


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    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    All of this makes a good case for a system of professional jurors who are well versed in legal matters,
    Pretty much, yeah, cause I don't know how many times I've heard a laywer say something like, "well, now it's in the hands of twelve people too stupid to get themselves excused from jury duty".
    Every problem is the result of a previous solution.

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    tWebber TheWall's Avatar
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    I took a class on forensic psychology in college. It is truly amazing how little I knew about law court procedures and psychology.

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    Kinda related...

    Several years ago, I saw an article in a police newsletter I receive, that talked about Jury Nullification, and an anticipated new wave of "social justice warriors" managing to ensconce themselves on juries in cases where they could disrupt the system* by their presence on a jury. So far, it appears the law of averages works against them, due to the first step of the jury selection process which, supposedly, is quite random. A dishonest or activist (or both) juror could certainly play havoc in the rendering of a jury's decision.


    *it would be quite easy in many cases to force a "hung jury", or to sway other jurors away from a conviction regardless of the evidence
    Hopefully the prosecutor would be able to also pick those types out in voir dire. Many times these types of activists are too angry and stupid to hide their true motivations when questioned. Also, if a jury is blatantly not following jury instructions to the point of letting off a murderer, can't the judge reject the verdict and make them go again, or replace a juror who is not acting in good faith?

    But in the OP, I think it is well within a Jury's right to consider the type of sentence a person would have if convicted. If they feel a horrible murderer would actually thrive in prison, they are within their rights to give him the death penalty as punishment if it is on the table. Or even vice versa, if they know the guy would prefer to die, they can decide to punish him more by giving him life. If a Judge disagrees, they can change it. Most courts I know, just have the jury determine guilt or innocence and the sentencing it up to the judge.

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    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    Hopefully the prosecutor would be able to also pick those types out in voir dire. Many times these types of activists are too angry and stupid to hide their true motivations when questioned.
    Supposedly, this was going to be a united front, where they were trained in "staying on the jury" through voir dire - but I haven't heard of any of this actually happening. The chances of probably that they'd even picked in the first place pretty slim, as well.

    Also, if a jury is blatantly not following jury instructions to the point of letting off a murderer, can't the judge reject the verdict and make them go again, or replace a juror who is not acting in good faith?
    That pretty much depends on the venue, but I would think so, yes.

    But in the OP, I think it is well within a Jury's right to consider the type of sentence a person would have if convicted. If they feel a horrible murderer would actually thrive in prison, they are within their rights to give him the death penalty as punishment if it is on the table. Or even vice versa, if they know the guy would prefer to die, they can decide to punish him more by giving him life. If a Judge disagrees, they can change it. Most courts I know, just have the jury determine guilt or innocence and the sentencing it up to the judge.
    I don't know about anywhere else, but in Texas the jury gets to find for guilt or innocence, THEN there is the part of the trial for sentencing. Some of the testimony is not allowed during the trial (such as prior offenses, etc) but IS allowed for the sentencing part. And the defendant can choose to allow the jury to set sentencing, or the judge.
    Every problem is the result of a previous solution.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    All of this makes a good case for a system of professional jurors who are well versed in legal matters,
    lol. the courts don' like people who are trained in legal matters. lawyers, as I understand it, are typically not accepted on to juries.

  13. Amen Teallaura amen'd this post.
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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorrinRadd View Post
    If we're going to sit in judgment of jurors' reasoning, amend the Constitution to get rid of jury trials. Leave everything up to the judges. They are smarter and better than regular people anyway. If you don't believe me, just ask a few.
    The first problem with this idea is that the use of jurors was designed so that peers would be able to decide the case rather than the system that makes the laws and accuses people. If we get rid of jurors from the public, we might as well just make a unified group that makes the laws, accuses people and decides they are guilty.

    Anyone in court on a crime still has the option to go with the trained judge or with the jury trial. Sometimes the trial decided by a judge yields benefits (and appeals) not available through a jury trial.

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