Last night we had Justin Falconer—now known as: juror #5. He is, for those of you who missed the show, the juror on the Scott Peterson (search) case who got "bumped" from the jury by the Judge. He says he got bumped because he had become a distraction. Yes, he had become a distraction but I think there might have been a bit more to it. Jurors don't typically get "bumped" for being a distraction. Today I might have the Judge's chambers transcript from the hearing bumping him so that we will know for sure (not sure the transcript will be released to the public or not.) My hunch is that the Judge "bumped" him because juror #5 said had learned of media reports about his conversation with Brent Rocha (search) via his girlfriend and friends. Jurors are specifically instructed by judges to avoid ALL information in the media about a case in which they are serving as jurors —this would include via a third person (a friend, etc.) So, bottom line: he violated a court order by allowing himself to hear the media reports and would have to go. From time to time jurors inadvertently learn something they should not and, in that case, it is their responsibility to immediately report that to the judge. There is no indication (yet) that juror #5 — on his own — reported to the judge what his friends were saying about media reports. It sounds like the judge had to pull it out of him instead. When there is the slight hint of violating a court order, there is no choice but to remove the juror and replace him/her with an alternate. Both the state and the defendant are entitled to a fair jury.
Here are some e-mails (with my responses):
E-mail No. 1
Shame on you for giving Juror #5 exactly what he
wants: prime time coverage, all about him!!! He is a
disgrace to the jury system, and you are a disgrace to
fair and balanced journalism.
San Anselmo, CA
ANSWER: Judy — There is only one way for our system of justice to get better — for us to have knowledge about how it works, and what happens. Putting our heads in the sand and getting no information is never the answer. Ignorance affords us no opportunity to improve. I am curious what went wrong with juror #5 and hope that people learn more from the incident involving him. Jury service is an important civic duty and people should know as much about it — good, bad, and ugly —as possible.
E-mail No. 2
Tonight you made a great point about us (you/me) not being able to see all
the evidence because we are not in the courtroom. I just wanted to say,
"just another reason cameras ought to be allowed in all courtrooms."
I think that Gloria Allred is doing a dis-service to her client by having
her mug all over every news channel that she can.
As always your show rocks and you're doing a great job.
Jason Gower 3L
ANSWER: Jason — I wish we did have cameras in the courtroom. Without cameras, people interested in the case must learn through others and first hand information is superior to second hand. I know there are many who complain about cameras (and point to the Simpson trial), but Court TV has televised more than 1500 trials and not one has been reversed in the court of appeals because it has been unfair.
E-mail No. 3
I don't believe you should be talking about the Laci Peterson case the way you are on TV, especially, with the juror that was removed, as the jurors have not been sequestered. I believe you are trying the case on TV and that is not right. Maybe the show needs to give you another reason for being there.
ANSWER: Barbara — As long as jurors follow instructions and don't read papers or watch shows about the trial, there is no harm. When one does disobey a court order and watch, there is a solution (removal and replacement with an alternate.) Frankly, if a juror is willing to violate the court order about following the media reports, chances are that juror is violating other orders and does not belong on the panel.
Finally, this juror is a "godsend" to the prosecution. Because he got "bumped," he is talking and providing information to the prosecution. He gives the prosecution an inside look at how to present its case. I know that the prosecution hated to hear what the juror is saying, but he is tipping them off as to how to improve the presentation of the evidence. This is not an insignificant point.
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