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Trial by jury - how fast is too fast?Posted Monday, August 18, 2008, at 9:59 AM
After our story on the recent conviction of Lawrence E. Stewart on a drug charge, two important questions were raised on the blog attached to the story. The first question concerned the use of confidential informants; the second question concerned the speed at which the jury came to unanimous agreement on the verdict.
Here's the story about Stewart's conviction: http://www.marshallnews.com/story/145269...
And here's the story about confidential informants: http://www.marshallnews.com/story/145332...
And, more on the subject, this time concerning the speed of the verdict:
The verdict in the case of Lawrence E. Stewart Wednesday, Aug. 13, came in very fast, in less than 20 minutes.
The trial itself, not including jury selection, began at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Testimony ended just before 7 p.m. After a dinner recess, jurors heard closing arguments from Saline County Prosecutor Donald G. Stouffer and defense attorney Rebecca M. Hains before going to the jury room at 8:20 p.m.
By 8:40 p.m., the jurors had returned and been individually polled on their agreement with the verdict. They were then dismissed after a brief discussion with Judge Dennis A. Rolf.
To some, the verdict seemed to have come not only quickly, but perhaps too quickly.
Dr. Joseph Rice, president of the Jury Research Institute in Alamo, Calif., said Friday, Aug. 15, that although bringing in a verdict in under 20 minutes in a criminal case is fairly quick, it's not unheard of, particularly in a one-day trial.
Rice said his research indicates that most juries take a "straw poll" of their members almost immediately after selecting the foreman.
"If all the members of the jury are already in agreement on the verdict, there is then little reason to continue deliberations," he said.
Rice added that what the jury decides can be a measure of how well each side presented its arguments.
"They may have believed the prosecutor's presentation was good, or that the defense attorney's presentation was not, or some combination of each," he said.
Rice, a clinical psychologist and attorney, is frequently called upon by attorneys involved in a broad range of difficult cases.
In a 2002 California case involving the kidnapping and murder of a young girl, Rice was quoted in an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune by reporter Kirstin Green on the possibility of jury influences:
"Rice says jurors tend to exercise good judgment and focus on evidence presented in the courtroom when they enter deliberations.
"Jurors are very good about separating the outside world," he said. "For the most part, they are able to put aside those issues and focus on the evidence."
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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.