Jurors please wait to tweet or be prepared to pay


Jury duty is something that most people don’t look forward to attending.  However, there are certain cases that may receive a lot of press and jurors actually are interested to be apart of the process.  If you are ever chosen to be on a jury, make sure that you follow the rules of the court. 

One of the most important rules the judge will require is for jurors to not talk about the case until it is over.  If a case takes more than one day, most juries are allowed to go home for the night.  In limited situations, juries are kept away from the public and housed in a hotel until the case is over.  Regardless of where the jurors stay, the rule remains the same.  Don’t talk about the case until the case is over.  This includes not talking to fellow members of the jury until it is time for deliberations. 

With technology, it is much easier to make contact with others than ever before. Most people own cell phones, and smart phones allow people to post messages on the web through Facebook and Twitter to thousands of people at a time.  With these conveniences, it takes more of an effort on a juror’s part to not be tempted to talk about the case he or she is currently apart. 

In Detroit, a juror posted a Facebook message talking about the trial.  When the court discovered this, the juror was fined $250 and was required to write an essay on the constitutional rights to a fair trial.  A fair trial, this is what the rule is trying to protect.  If the fine is not enough to deter you from talking to about the case, then imagine it was you on trial and how it would feel to not receive a fair trial.  It is okay to talk to others while the case is pending, just make sure the trial doesn’t enter the conversation.    

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For more information:

http://wwj.cbslocal.com/2010/09/02/juror-who-made-facebook-post-due-in-court/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/24/jurors-using-twitter-jeop_n_332648.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/4998004/Juror-tweeted-on-Twitter-during-trial.html

To plead or not to plead?


This is perhaps one of the most critical decisions on any criminal case. Last week, we talked about why a person would take a plea bargain. This week we aer going to talk about some factors one should consider in making the decision on whether to take a plea bargain.

First of all, a person should never agree to a plea bargain without the help of a defense attorney. This decision will remain with you for the rest of your life and it makes no sense to try to make it without a trained professional. It is fine to look information up on the web and read this blog to be better informed. However, if you need a new transmission for your car, would you do it yourself after reading information about it online?

Alright, so that being said, here is an incomplete list of things one should consider prior to pleading to a case. The potential penalties of the charges are one thing that should be considered by any defendant. One should be aware of what the maximum and potential consequences of the charges verses what the prosecution is offering for a plea bargain.

Another factor that people should consider is the evidence. People should look at what the prosecution has for evidence and how strength of that evidence. This isn’t something that is easy to assess. Most people believe certain aspects of a case are helpful when it isn’t, while others mistakenly believe other parts of a case are useless. This is where an experience attorney can shine and really be helpful to your case.

Finally, people should also consider the collateral consequences to a plea. Some of these consequences include license suspension, immigration issues, loss of financial aid, employment issues, providing DNA samples, GPS monitoring and needing to register as a sex offender. Today, plea bargains are becoming increasingly common, as fewer cases are going to trial. The decision to plead to a case verses demanding a trial is an important decision that shouldn’t be made alone.

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The deception of conviction rates


As humans we love to try to make sense of things that aren’t easily definable.  In the world of prosecution, conviction rates are a statistic that a lot of people like to point to as a measure success.  Essentially, the conviction rate is the percentage of cases that are won.  Unfortunately, such a simple number fares poorly in giving an accurate picture of the situation. 

 Most people love to bring up conviction rates because it is a simple metric that most people find easily understandable.  Most people like to point to the higher conviction rates and believe that those offices are doing a better job prosecuting the crimes. 

 However, the conviction rate is deceiving for a lot of reasons.  As much as we would like to be able to quantify the legal process, it is much more of an art form than a scientific process.  In order to garner a higher conviction rate, district attorney offices may only try the cases they know are absolute winners.  Now that doesn’t mean that the DA will definitely win those cases, but those are usually the cases that the DA has the most evidence. 

 If a district attorney’s office is only trying cases that it qualifies are absolute winners, this can lead to several issues.  For one, an office may be giving very lenient plea bargains on cases that may have strong evidence, but aren’t absolute winners.  Second, the DA may try to convincing the alleged victims that certain cases are weaker than they actually are in order to plead the case out.   

Finally, in order for justice to take place the people involved in the system need to make the responsible decisions.  The conviction rate doesn’t tell us if the right thing happened in a case.  Conversely, the conviction rate can actually hinder  the wheels of justice.  In the end, we don’t want our district attorneys to be motivated by any other metric other than doing what is right.   There are a lot of factors that go into determining the outcome of a case.  Conviction rates may have their place, but they are fare poorly in showing the true picture.  

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What are the lawyers and the judge whispering about over there?


If you have ever sat on a jury, you may notice that there are a lot of side bar conferences.  A side bar conference is essentially a conversation between the lawyers and the judge that is kept away from the jury.  For the most part, jurors hate side bar conferences because they feel as though useful information is being kept from them. 

Side bar conferences may also annoy jurors because it takes time and slows down the trial.  A judge may call a side bar conference at any point.  The lawyers may ask the judge for a side bar conference and it is up to the judge to grant that conference.  If a side bar conference is going to be conducted, both lawyers need to approach the judge’s bench.  If the conversation takes too long, the judge may opt to have a further hearing and ask the jury to step out of the room. 

So what is really going on during a side bar conference?  Well, there is really no one good answer.  Side bar conferences are used to go over a number of issues that are inappropriate to be discussed in front of the jury.  It could be something as simple as how certain evidence or items in the court room should be presented.  A lawyer could be asking the court room to be set up in a certain fashion.  More likely is that the judge is ruling on the rules of law and if certain evidence is allowed to be admitted. 

You may find side bar conferences very annoying.  After all, secrets are no fun, but it is important that you stay patient.  The point of side bar conferences is not to keep relevant information from the jury, but to keep irrelevant information from the jury.  If the jury hears evidence that violate the rules of evidence that can lead to an appeal or a mistrial.  If the court declares a mistrial it could make them restart the case in front of another jury.  Therefore, a little patience for side bar conferences can save the process a lot of time. 

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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What can happen if I skip jury duty?


There are very few things that this great country requires a citizen to do. All males must sign up for the draft at the age of 18, people must pay taxes if they are working and everyone is required to serve on a jury. There are very few exceptions to the rule. People who are above a certain age are able to stop going to jury duty, but for the most part you are required to go. It doesn’t matter what you do for work because even judges are required to go to jury duty. As most of people already know, jurors are selected randomly through a computer system. Selected jurors get notified by mail and can be sent to any court that is within the county of the person’s residence.

If for some reason you can’t serve on the day that is given, you usually defer to another date. If you don’t attend jury duty, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. A person who doesn’t attend jury duty can be fined up to $2,000. When a person is charged the court will usually send a summons to the person’s last known address. If the person doesn’t show up on the date that they were summoned, then the judge could put a warrant for the person’s arrest. Through this process, a person that has never been in trouble with the law before, can be arrested and brought to court.

What usually happens with these types of cases is that the court will have the person sign up for jury duty and hold over the criminal case. After the person performs jury duty, the charges are usually dismissed. However, the best thing to do is to make sure that you go to jury duty or get the court to allow you move the date. The last thing you want to happen is to be arrested for not going to jury duty.

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Attorney-Jason-Chan/101494423854?ref=sgm Massachusetts General Laws regarding jury duty http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/gl-234-toc.htm

Mass Juror Service Website https://juryduty.majury.gov/ojcweb/public/start.aspx

Boston Globe Article about courts cracking down on people who skipped jury duty http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/10/05/massachusetts_cracks_down_on_jury_duty_shirkers/?page=1

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Could dogs be used in a MA court room soon?


Dogs make great pets and there are many Americans that have these great companions at home. For many years now, dogs have also been used for helping the visually impaired to get around to helping police officers solve crime.

There has been a movement across the country to use dogs in the courtroom. The belief is that a dog can ease the tension there is in a trial or even in a plea setting. Some believe that it can ease the tensions of the adversarial process for everyone. Perhaps  a dog can ease the stress for judges, lawyers, witnesses and jurors.

 There are some aspects that the MA courts will need to deal with prior to adopting the system. One possible issues dealing with allergies. We know that certain people are allergic to dogs and the court would need to ask anyone that would be in the court room if they are allergic to dogs. Another potential hold up is the funding. Someone would need to take care of the dogs and the funding would need to come from somewhere. As we already know, the current fiscal has deeply affected the judicial budget.

Finally, dogs are wonderful and having them in the court room is a wonderful idea. People are uneasy about the court process and tend to be very stressed out during trials. What would be better than to have a friendly pooch to pet and look at? Having dogs in the court room is a great idea, but I wouldn’t count on petting one in a Massachusetts court room any time soon.

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For More information:

Promoting justice through the use of well-trained dogs to provide emotional support for everyone in our criminal justice system http://www.courthousedogs.com/courtroom.html

A comforting canine presence provides victims with a safe harbor By Rebecca Wallick http://www.thebark.com/content/dogscourtroom

Assistance dogs’ use for kids in courtrooms urged http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S1250476.shtml Judge’s dog is friend of the court http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/110756

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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Do you really know what a jury trial is about?


Unless you were chosen to serve as a juror, most people don’t know what jury trials are really about.  Sure, court room dramas are nice, but movies seldom explain the process.  Here are a few points about one of your most important consitutional rights. 

 The number of jurors: Depending on what court you are being tried, the number of jurors will vary.  The district court requires a unanimous decision by 6 jurors.  The superior court requires a unanimous decision by 12 jurors.  In short, the superior court requires twice as many jurors to return a verdict.  One reason for this difference is that the penalties are much more severe in superior court.  The stakes being higher, the amount of jurors are also higher. 

 Alternates: Most judges will sit more jurors than is required.  In both the district court and the superior court it is very common for the judge to impanel more jurors than required.  Judges will sit alternate jurors in case people have emergencies that arise.  If a judge empanels the minimum amount of jurors and a juror is unable to perform his or her duties, then the judge will most likley have to declare a mistrial.  To avoid this problem, judges will sit additional jurors. 

 Impaneling a jury:  The amount of time it takes to impanel a jury can very significantly.  Essentially, the court wants to impanel an impartial jury and for certain cases this can be difficult.  If you have jury duty, I am sure this isn’t something that you want to hear.  Cases that particularly take a long time to impanel a jury are cases involving sex offenses.  It can take days if not weeks to impanel a jury for a child molestation or rape case.  So if you are serving jury duty and find yourself as a potential jury in a sex offense case prepare for a long process. 

 Decision: As I have mentioned before, a jury decision in Massachusetts needs to be unanimous.  This means that the entire jury needs to agree with the decision of guilty or not guilty.  As you can imagine, this can make for long jury deliberations. 

 This post gives you a little background on jury trials.  Jury trials are complicated and it is never a good idea to represent yourself in a trial.  In the end, it is important to remember that it is not a perfect system.  However, it is bar far the best one ever created.

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 For more information:

 About the Massachusetts Jury System

http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury/introduc.htm

 Preparing for a jury trial

http://articles.directorym.com/Preparing_for_a_Jury_Trial_Agawam_MA-r935226-Agawam_MA.html

Glossary of trial terms

http://guides.gottrouble.com/Glossary_of_Jury_Trial_Terms_Massachusetts-r1204930-Massachusetts.html

Defense of Massachusetts Jury Service System

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1289579/defense_of_massachusetts_jury_service.html?cat=17

Anatomy of a jury trial

http://www.america.gov/media/pdf/ejs/0709.pdf#popup

Vanishing Civil Jury Trials

http://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/boston-bar/2009/04/the-vanishing-civil-jury-trial/

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