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My experience on Jury Duty. Warning...long. (1 Viewer)

But they should be able to.  I get why they aren't supposed to, but juries have zero education in law and just feel like no one can answer simple questions for them.
Exactly. And if it was indeed not allowable for the judge to answer this question clearly--then it is 1000% imparitve that the defense lawyer makes completely sure that the jury is aware of this.   The defense lawyer instead actively chose to say/do nothing in this case.   That's not the fault of the jury.  

 
I agree with both of you here.

non lawyers/typical jurors don't know the law- I'm impressed the OP caught the part about the "knife" and had the conviction to bring it up and stand by it as long as he did. if the defense attorneys had done as jvdesigns said, and made the point clear to the jurors that conviction meant proving it was a "knife"- the jurors could have done their job with better legal information and instructions. 

the lawyers saying that jurors should follow the law... reminds me of the plumbing sub-contractor acting surprised/shocked when I (the architect) don't know the intricacies of replumbing a gas meter. it's not my job. that's why you, the plumber (laywer), are here- to do the job, and explain it as best as possible so I can do my job.
If you were teaching an architecture class to first year undergrads and gave out a syllabus and it said "On Wednesdays, be prepared with a photograph of a house the design of which you find inspiring.  We will pass around the photographs and discuss each one," and one kid came in with a painting of a stylized house that doesn't really exist, what would your reaction be?

 
Again, only been on one jury.  But the written instructions were written by lawyers who did not take into consideration they were talking to non lawyers.
I can't speak to your instructions, but these apparently clearly stated that you should convict if you think the prosecution proved that the defendant stabbed someone with a knife.  How else would you like that to be explained?

 
Exactly. And if it was indeed not allowable for the judge to answer this question clearly--then it is 1000% imparitve that the defense lawyer makes completely sure that the jury is aware of this.   The defense lawyer instead actively chose to say/do nothing in this case.   That's not the fault of the jury.  
I'm not a criminal lawyer, but I reckon somewhere in the instructions it said that the prosecution had to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That's why the OP was correct in interpreting the jury instructions the way he or she did and its why the judge told the jury to read the instructions. 

Jury instructions are meticulously planned documents. By speaking off the cuff in answering a question that has already been answered in the instructions, the judge could have opened grounds for appeal. He or she did not want to do that.

 
Exactly. And if it was indeed not allowable for the judge to answer this question clearly--then it is 1000% imparitve that the defense lawyer makes completely sure that the jury is aware of this.   The defense lawyer instead actively chose to say/do nothing in this case.   That's not the fault of the jury.  
The defense lawyer got a written instruction placed in front of twelve adult human beings who speak English that explained what was needed to convict.

 
I'm definitely not getting on @joffer about this, by the way.  He did his best, and the purpose of a jury is to hash these things out.  He was right, and he got convinced otherwise because the other people there were aggressively wrong.  It happens.  I'm glad (especially for him) that it appears the person did commit a crime, because it's not putting an innocent person in prison or anything.

 
The defense lawyer got a written instruction placed in front of twelve adult human beings who speak English that explained what was needed to convict.
I think you are knowingly being narrow minded. You make it seem like a group of people that have lived their lives in a certain way for decades are going to willingly abandon how they have thought for their entire lives because of something that is written on a piece of paper.  If a lawyer just assumes that any random group of people will just do that--and finds no need to explain "while this thought is going to be against your nature--in a court of law--sematics and fine details mean everything"--that lawyer shouldn't complain when he/she loses a case. 

 The prosecution has the burden to prove that the weapon was clearly a knife and that has not been established..etc.". Instead the defense lawyer did and said nothing ----assuming that piece of paper was going to do all of the work for him. If jurors were robots that had no problem being reprogrammed to think a different way than they had their entire lives--then you have a point.   The defense lawyer bet on that assumption that a piece of paper would do all of the work for him--and that was a stupid bet. If a lawyer wants to be succcesful--that lawyer better find a way to communicate and explain in easy terms to a non legal person--why their side of the case is the right one in a court of law.  The defense attorney failed miserably here--and the fact that the judge got approached with a question that he wasn't allowed to answer clearly is evidence of that failure.   

 
I think you are knowingly being narrow minded. You make it seem like a group of people that have lived their lives in a certain way for decades are going to willingly abandon how they have thought for their entire lives because of something that is written on a piece of paper.  If a lawyer just assumes that any random group of people will just do that--and finds no need to explain "while this thought is going to be against your nature--in a court of law--sematics and fine details mean everything"--that lawyer shouldn't complain when he/she loses a case. 

 The prosecution has the burden to prove that the weapon was clearly a knife and that has not been established..etc.". Instead the defense lawyer did and said nothing ----assuming that piece of paper was going to do all of the work for him. If jurors were robots that had no problem being reprogrammed to think a different way than they had their entire lives--then you have a point.   The defense lawyer bet on that assumption that a piece of paper would do all of the work for him--and that was a stupid bet. If a lawyer wants to be succcesful--that lawyer better find a way to communicate and explain in easy terms to a non legal person--why their side of the case is the right one in a court of law.  The defense attorney failed miserably here--and the fact that the judge got approached with a question that he wasn't allowed to answer clearly is evidence of that failure.   
I think you are knowingly making excuses for people who actively decided to ignore written instructions when sending someone to prison despite the fact that they were repeatedly pointed out to them.

 
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I'm not a criminal lawyer, but I reckon somewhere in the instructions it said that the prosecution had to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That's why the OP was correct in interpreting the jury instructions the way he or she did and its why the judge told the jury to read the instructions. 

Jury instructions are meticulously planned documents. By speaking off the cuff in answering a question that has already been answered in the instructions, the judge could have opened grounds for appeal. He or she did not want to do that.
In that case--why would the defense attorney not call a medical expert that could shed some light on the nature of the wound --questioning the ambiguity of the weapon that possibly could have caused it?  One witness/expert could have opened the door for the defense to clearly emphasize the point that there is some question in regards to the weapon--and could have used that opportunity to hammer in the importance of the requirement that prosecution has of establishing the weapon clearly being a knife.  The defense lawyer chose not to do that.  HF said the results of the case were due to an "activist" jury that wanted to convict--which I think is a giant assumption.   

 
jvdesigns2002, I don't know if you are a lawyer, but ironically you should be.  You've completely convinced me to your side on this argument (a very interesting read/topic, thanks joffer!) over the notable professional lawyers in this thread.  :matlock:

 
In that case--why would the defense attorney not call a medical expert that could shed some light on the nature of the wound --questioning the ambiguity of the weapon that possibly could have caused it?  One witness/expert could have opened the door for the defense to clearly emphasize the point that there is some question in regards to the weapon--and could have used that opportunity to hammer in the importance of the requirement that prosecution has of establishing the weapon clearly being a knife.  The defense lawyer chose not to do that.  HF said the results of the case were due to an "activist" jury that wanted to convict--which I think is a giant assumption.   
You've got an indigent defendant.  Who's paying for the expert?

 
I think you are knowingly making excuses for people who actively decided to ignore written instructions when sending someone to prison despite the fact that they were repeatedly pointed out to them.
Agree to disagree.   As a person that admittedly has little to no legal experience--I am at least trying to see things from a legal point of view and see how things could have been handled differently.  You on the other hand are not willing to understand or take into account how people with little to no legal background actually think and react.   If you are unwilling to at least try to absorb that--this will be a circular discussion. Enjoy your day. 

 
In that case--why would the defense attorney not call a medical expert that could shed some light on the nature of the wound --questioning the ambiguity of the weapon that possibly could have caused it?  One witness/expert could have opened the door for the defense to clearly emphasize the point that there is some question in regards to the weapon--and could have used that opportunity to hammer in the importance of the requirement that prosecution has of establishing the weapon clearly being a knife.  The defense lawyer chose not to do that.  HF said the results of the case were due to an "activist" jury that wanted to convict--which I think is a giant assumption.   
I don't know. Maybe he should have. Maybe he forgot or is overworked or wasn't allowed by the judge. Or maybe he knew the prosecution couldn't prove that element and, because it was the prosecution's burden to do so, he didn't think he had to prove anything. Because it wasn't his burden to do so.

 
You've got an indigent defendant.  Who's paying for the expert?
Right--and that supports your claim that the jury was activist and wanted to convict how?  If one expert would have changed the juries result--how are they then activist with a desire to convict?  You can't have it both ways. 

 
I think you are knowingly making excuses for people who actively decided to ignore written instructions when sending someone to prison despite the fact that they were repeatedly pointed out to them.
In your experience, how well do juries do with the instructions they're given? Do you think these instructions work in most cases?

 
Agree to disagree.   As a person that admittedly has little to no legal experience--I am at least trying to see things from a legal point of view and see how things could have been handled differently.  You on the other hand are not willing to understand or take into account how people with little to no legal background actually think and react.   If you are unwilling to at least try to absorb that--this will be a circular discussion. Enjoy your day. 
Sorry, let me clarify.

Yeah, I know this is how things go because I spend dozens of hours per year focus grouping potential jurors.  I absolutely would do things differently.  I do actually do things differently.  Precisely because of things like this.  The big mistake, of course, wasn't the written instruction, it was the attorney failing to arm @joffer with the tools necessary to do his job to fight for the defendant.  That's a mistake the defense attorney is responsible for. 

That said, the defense attorney is working for a homeless person.  That's a public defender.  The OP is in Austin, Texas.  There is no public defender's office in Travis County, Texas.  Random attorneys with the bar get assigned indigent cases.

The reason the defense attorney wasn't a stellar lawyer is because the defense attorney probably doesn't do a lot of criminal defense work.  Maybe none.  This could legitimately be the first criminal case of any kind that lawyer has taken - pro bono - to try to get some trial experience.

So everyone has to rely on each other.  But the jury wanted to disregard part of the instructions to get to the result that felt right.  When judges do that, they're referred to as "activist."

 
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In your experience, how well do juries do with the instructions they're given? Do you think these instructions work in most cases?
I don't know how to put that on a scale.  I guess they do as well as a classroom does at following a syllabus.

 
I can't speak to your instructions, but these apparently clearly stated that you should convict if you think the prosecution proved that the defendant stabbed someone with a knife.  How else would you like that to be explained?
I can't speak for this case.  But I feel like this is one of those things where the people writing the instructions feel they are perfect because they know the law.  

It reminds me of Silicon Valley where they sent their product out to 100 engineers and they all raved about it.  But when users got a hold of it, they couldn't understand it.  And the engineers couldn't understand why the users were having so much trouble because it was so perfectly designed.

 
I can't speak for this case.  But I feel like this is one of those things where the people writing the instructions feel they are perfect because they know the law.  

It reminds me of Silicon Valley where they sent their product out to 100 engineers and they all raved about it.  But when users got a hold of it, they couldn't understand it.  And the engineers couldn't understand why the users were having so much trouble because it was so perfectly designed.
The jurors in this case decided to disregard the instructions precisely because the part they didn't want to follow wasn't in "the law."  That's in the OP in this thread.

The majority argues that proving it was a knife is not one of the elements of AAwDW, that it could be shiv or anything sharp. 

 
You've got an indigent defendant.  Who's paying for the expert?
Again--I have little to no legal background--but would the EMT that treated the wound on site and the doctor that treated it at the hospital have to be paid if they were asked to be in court?   The defense lawyer could have asked--was this wound unequivocally caused by a knife--or could it have possibly been caused by any other type of instrument--and then carried on from there?   Being that these are medical professionals that actually worked the case--would this be an expense for the defense? Just curious. 

 
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Again--I have little to no legal background--but would the EMT that treated the wound on site and the doctor that treated it at the hospital have to paid if they were asked to be in court?   The defense lawyer could have asked--was this wound unequivocally caused by a knife--or could it have possibly been caused by any other type of instrument--and then carried on from there?   Being that these are medical professionals that actually worked the case--would this be an expense for the defense? Just curious. 
1. Yes.  All witnesses who are subpoenaed to go to court have to be paid.  It's often a very small amount (though expert testimony would require that amount to skyrocket) but even a small amount is more than a homeless person can pay.

2. A random EMT and a random doctor are not likely going to get qualified under Daubert to say what kind of weapon caused an injury.

 
Fact witnesses get paid something like whatever the jury gets paid per day plus mileage to show up, depending on the court.  Expert witnesses command expert witness fees.  If I want a doctor to show up and give an opinion, I'm going to end up paying him or her $5,000.00 or more.

 
I'm definitely not getting on @joffer about this, by the way.  He did his best, and the purpose of a jury is to hash these things out.  He was right, and he got convinced otherwise because the other people there were aggressively wrong.  It happens.  I'm glad (especially for him) that it appears the person did commit a crime, because it's not putting an innocent person in prison or anything.
this is where I keep ending up.  a little mad at myself for not sticking to what I thought, but not beating myself up over it.

thanks for all the replies everyone, on both sides.

 
this is where I keep ending up.  a little mad at myself for not sticking to what I thought, but not beating myself up over it.

thanks for all the replies everyone, on both sides.
Don't be. It happens all the time.  But - use this as a good reason to not skip jury duty in the future.  Imagine if someone on your jury had said "you know, I've served on a jury before, and what the judge told us before he gave us those instructions means the instructions are meant to be more specific than the law so we know how to apply it to this case."

 
1. Yes.  All witnesses who are subpoenaed to go to court have to be paid.  It's often a very small amount (though expert testimony would require that amount to skyrocket) but even a small amount is more than a homeless person can pay.

2. A random EMT and a random doctor are not likely going to get qualified under Daubert to say what kind of weapon caused an injury.
Thank you for answering--and I think your answer to me solidifies where I stand on this.  This makes me want to blame the jury less and the process even more.   I still think the defense could have done more--they didn't.  The lack of funds for them to make the case more compelling and easier to digest for a jury is not the fault of the jury.   The jury was effectively asked to make the case for the defense through a piece of paper and nothing more.  That's a lot of legality to ask from a group of non-legal people.   I can't blame them for a less than desirable legal ruling.  I appreciate and thank you for the discussion--but I will agree to disagree.  

 
Thank you for answering--and I think your answer to me solidifies where I stand on this.  This makes me want to blame the jury less and the process even more.   I still think the defense could have done more--they didn't.  The lack of funds for them to make the case more compelling and easier to digest for a jury is not the fault of the jury.   The jury was effectively asked to make the case for the defense through a piece of paper and nothing more.  That's a lot of legality to ask from a group of non-legal people.   I can't blame them for a less than desirable legal ruling.  I appreciate and thank you for the discussion--but I will agree to disagree.  
No, the jury was asked to not make the case for the prosecution, which bears the burden of proof.  

 
That said, the defense attorney is working for a homeless person.  That's a public defender.  The OP is in Austin, Texas.  There is no public defender's office in Travis County, Texas.  Random attorneys with the bar get assigned indigent cases.
Interesting, we were all wondering about that.  The defense team was actually two people.  The main guy did the opening and closing, he was pretty good talking to the jury.  Another woman cross-examined the witnesses.  She was fairly effective.  These weren't all-stars, but they weren't incompetent, as least from my perspective.

And he did mention that lack of convincing evidence for the knife in the closing, but he certainly didn't "hammer it home".  He jumped around a lot, from trying to make the defendant look sympathetic, to reminding us the victim was the devil, to the knife, to lack of medical records, to something else, etc.  He used all of his time because the judge told him he had two mins left.  It wasn't Perry Mason, but it wasn't awful.

 
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Mirriam Definition of knife

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a cutting instrument consisting of a sharp blade fastened to a handle

b : a weapon or tool resembling a knife

2 : a sharp cutting blade or tool in a machine

Seems like like whatever the weapon was is covered under "b" and meets the definition of knife 

 
Interesting, we were all wondering about that.  The defense team was actually two people.  The main guy did the opening and closing, he pretty good talking to the jury.  Another woman cross-examined the witnesses.  She was fairly effective.  These weren't all-stars, but they weren't incompetent, as least from my perspective.

And he did mention that lack of convincing evidence for the knife in the closing, but he certainly didn't "hammer it home".  He jumped around a lot, from trying to make the defendant look sympathetic, to reminding us the victim was the devil, to the knife, to lack of medical records, to something else, etc.  He used all of his time because the judge told him he had two mins left.  It wasn't Perry Mason, but it wasn't awful.
@jvdesigns2002

So the attorney basically said "they haven't proven there was even a knife" and the instructions said "did they prove he stabbed the victim with a knife?"

If you're dealing with an indigent defense, that's about as Perry Mason as you can hope for, sadly.

 
Mirriam Definition of knife

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a cutting instrument consisting of a sharp blade fastened to a handle

b : a weapon or tool resembling a knife

2 : a sharp cutting blade or tool in a machine

Seems like like whatever the weapon was is covered under "b" and meets the definition of knife 
I'll do you one better:

Texas Penal Code section 46.01(7): "Knife" means any bladed hand instrument that is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person with the instrument.
But it sounds like the prosecutor didn't bring that up.

 
@jvdesigns2002

So the attorney basically said "they haven't proven there was even a knife" and the instructions said "did they prove he stabbed the victim with a knife?"

If you're dealing with an indigent defense, that's about as Perry Mason as you can hope for, sadly.
I can see jvd's point though.  it seemed obvious that after the knife was suppressed, the defense's strategy totally changed off of self-defense.  he must have known the importance of no knife.  

 
I don't know. Maybe he should have. Maybe he forgot or is overworked or wasn't allowed by the judge. Or maybe he knew the prosecution couldn't prove that element and, because it was the prosecution's burden to do so, he didn't think he had to prove anything. Because it wasn't his burden to do so.
This is the key part.  And the prosecutor failed.

 
this is where I keep ending up.  a little mad at myself for not sticking to what I thought, but not beating myself up over it.

thanks for all the replies everyone, on both sides.
I think you shouldn't beat yourself up over this. The Prosecution provided you with an eye-witness that said it was a knife and he had actual possession of it at one point. There was a clear stab wound. The victim stated she felt she was stabbed. Without that eye witness, I think you have good grounds to acquit, but you were presented a set of facts plus a video and did what a reasonable person would find in this situation. 

As far as some questioning why the Defense didn't put up a case, I can guarantee they determined their client wouldn't exactly come across too well to a jury.  She may have prior convictions that would be fair game to the prosecution. She may have provided a motive through questioning. She may have confessed to the knife. The Defense weighed the pros/cons and made the call. It will be up to the Defendant whether she believes she has grounds for an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel. 

 
Because they want to do what they feel should be “right”?
I completely agree.  I'm not saying jurors are stupid or ignorant in any way. They act according to human nature, and its completely understandable and to be expected that they often search for answers to fill in the blanks or explain the confusion they see in the court's instruction and the lawyers' arguments.  Its not appropriate for us to judge the judge and lawyers in this case, but it sure seems that the defense guy should have done a better job hammering home the need for a finding that a knife was used, and the fact that there was no knife in evidence. 

for what its worth, I was up until 4:00 a.m. this morning, then slept for a couple hours before getting back to work at 7 on an appellate court brief due today that relates entirely to a jury's mistaken view of what it though was "right" in a trial I had last summer - a small business dispute.  I'm sure they are smart people and tried to do what they felt is "right."  It is 100% my own failure that they misunderstood the jury instructions and verdict form.  Although the judge corrected their mistake on my post-verdict motion, the law is strongly amenable to reversal on appeal, because the jury's answers are provided a huge amount of deference, so there is a good chance I'll lose everything in this appeal.

 
A lot happening in here.  I'll try to provide some thoughts tonight when I have some decent free time. 

To the OP though: I appreciate you giving a heightened level of care and effort in serving your duty as a juror.  That's more than many would do and you should hold your head high that you served your civic duty well. 

 
I suggest you contact the defense attorney and send him a link to this thread.  Just as you were not qualified to judge the intricacies of the law when you were in the jury room deliberating, you're not qualified to judge them now.  This could be grounds for an appeal, couldn't it?  The jury asked a specific question and received a vague answer.  Immediately following the verdict they were provided a specific answer which would have very likely changed the verdict.  Seems like a professional should be looking at this and decide whether it makes sense to follow up formally.

 
The judge isn't really allowed to provide the kind of clarification they wanted.
Could the judge have answered "what's the legal definition of  'knife'"?

BTW, what is the legal definition of "knife"?

 
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