My colleague Steve Yeazell, an expert on civil procedure (and a historian of civil procedure), writes this apropos the "Lawyer Disbarred for Switching Vote as a Juror Solely in Order To Return To His Busy Law Practice" post:
I am ... a little dubious about the less-noted part of the case -- the trial court's order of a new trial on the basis of Fahy's affidavit. I don't know the specific California law on this question, but the trend in the US has been to insulate juries from most internal scrutiny -- scrutiny, that is, that asks about why the jury came to the verdict it did, so long as, seen from outside, it's rationally defensible, as this one clearly was.
In a leading case, written by Learned Hand, the Second Circuit affirmed a defense verdict reached under the following circumstances: deadlocked 7-5 for the defense, the jury learned that one of its members' sons had just been killed in WWII. They agreed that the minority would vote with the majority so the member could go home to grieve, thereby producing a unanimous verdict. Held: no grounds for a new trial. Jorgenson v. York Ice Machinery Corp., 160 F.2d 432 (2d Cir. 1947): "Not only ought we not upset the judge's discretion in refusing to grant a new trial for such a reason; but, had he granted the motion ... we should not have sustained it."
Yes, the Fahy verdict is distinguishable, but not by a lot. And, even if the judge should not have granted a new trial, that doesn't speak to the disbarment order: it may be that for a lawyer-juror to rank his personal interests this high is a special problem. (And this was not Fahy's first brush with bar discipline.) But as you imply in your blog: one bets a lot of jurors throw in the towel after a week of deliberation and decide that the majority must be right. Is that really a terrible thing? The standard "dynamite" charge to deadlock jurors in fact encourages them to think about whether their fellow jurors maybe have it right.
Related Posts (on one page):
- More on Vote-Changing To Free Jurors from a Long Trial:
- Lawyer Disbarred for Switching Vote as a Juror Solely in Order To Return To His Busy Law Practice: