Inside the Surreal Search for 12 Impartial Weinstein Jurors
…Jury consultants can provide an advantage during a labor-intense selection process like Weinstein’s, which require lawyers to review questionnaires from hundreds of jurors. In the internet age, they also cyber sleuth. “I can type in your name right now and get a whole full report on you within 20 seconds,” Blueprint Trial Consulting partner Eric Rudich said during a phone interview. “For all prospective jurors, we have everything: where they live, their home value, political affiliation, sometimes things they’ve bought.” Weinstein’s team has called foul on the alleged social media posts of several would-be jurors, including a writer who apparently tweeted about using his jury seat to promote his novel. The juror claimed the tweet, which has since been deleted, was intended to be humorous. On Thursday, Judge James Burke dismissed the juror—and threatened a contempt-of-court charge.
When I told another jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, about Weinstein’s new hire, she burst into laughter. Not because of Stabile’s rep—just Weinstein’s timing. “It’s certainly my experience on any high-profile case [that] we are retained by the client well before a trial,” said Dimitrius, who worked on the criminal trial that acquitted O.J. Simpson of murder and a civil case that ended in an eight-figure award to Francis Ford Coppola. Really rich clients who really want to win hire jury consultants to run mock trials, focus-test witnesses, and survey public opinions long before selection begins. (Rudich also brought this up. Then again, advising people to seek consultation is sort of part of a consultant’s job, isn’t it?) Hiring a jury consultant is still an advantage, she acknowledged. But the prosecution also has advantages, like, she said, “Mr. Weinstein being, let’s call him, an unattractive defendant?”
“The courtroom becomes the home for the jurors; they notice everything and everybody,” Dimitrius said. Invoking the saga of Weinstein’s cell phone disobedience, she said of his defense team, “They’ve got an uncontrollable client. And that’s the worst scenario you can have.”
Weinstein’s lawyers have argued that negative media coverage has damaged Weinstein’s access to a fair trial. But jurors who know nothing about Weinstein may not be ideal, either. “Someone who is so clueless as to what’s happening in the world around them might not be the best decision-maker,” said Fordham University law professor Cheryl Bader.
When I interviewed him several months ago, Weinstein defense lawyer Arthur Aidala said he’d be looking for “a mature juror…someone who’s seen a lot of experience.” Someone who would “say, ‘Nah, if somebody really did that to me? Not the way I grew up. Not when I grew up in Brooklyn. Not when I grew up in the Bronx.'” During voir dire on Thursday, ADA Illuzzi-Orbon accused Weinstein’s lawyers of “systematically eliminating every young white female” from two panels of prospective jurors.
“It is rare to find a demographic that is predictive. It is more experiential and attitudinal,” Dimitrius told me. She said that identifying jurors who have personal experiences with sexual assault is imperative: “The people who say yes—whether it’s the jurors themselves, or a wife or husband or someone else in their family—those people are truly deaf to the defense…”
Forty Fort dentist cleared of tax fraud charges
A Forty Fort dentist accused of filing fraudulent tax returns to conceal more than $1 million of income has been acquitted of the charges.
A jury on Thursday found Charles Musto not guilty on two counts of wilfully filing a false tax return. The U.S. Attorney’s Office previously dropped a charge of operating a corrupt endeavor to impede the administration of tax laws.
“It’s refreshing to know that juries pay attention and can put aside attempts to portray a well-regarded citizen as a villain simply because he made the mistake of relying on professionals…
Jury rejects Harry Reid’s lawsuit against fitness band maker
A jury in Las Vegas flatly rejected former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s lawsuit against an exercise band maker he blamed for injuries—including blindness in one eye—he suffered when the stretchy device slipped from his grasp and he fell face-first a little more than four years ago.
After eight days of testimony, the eight-member civil trial jury deliberated about an hour before declaring that Reid never proved the first of 10 questions they were asked to decide…
El Chapo wants a new trial, asks court to investigate alleged juror misconduct
“It is a very serious problem and I think this judge really sits on the precipice with a lot of folks in the judiciary potentially following what’s going to happen here,” said Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, a jury consultant for the defense team in the O.J. Simpson trial. “This is really going to set a precedent, and the judge knows this.”
Juries are supposed to reach a verdict based solely on evidence and testimony heard inside the courtroom, but Facebook, Twitter, and Google have made it easy for curious jurors to seek out forbidden information about their case. Exactly how often that happens remains unclear, largely because jury deliberations are held in secret. Misconduct is typically only reported when jurors come forward or post publicly on social media.
Dimitrius said her firm’s polling has shown that 40 percent of prospective jurors say they would violate a judge’s instructions about social media. Other publicly available research suggests internet-related juror misconduct is rare. Only 33 federal judges out of nearly 500 surveyed in 2014 reported catching social media use by jurors during trial or deliberations. Another survey, also from 2014, of nearly 600 jurors from state and federal courts found that just 8 percent admitted being “tempted to communicate” about their case on social media.
Alpine City ordered to pay $1.7 million in defamation lawsuit
Alpine city and former mayor Don Watkins were ordered to pay $1.7 million to several construction companies after nearly 20 years of land development disputes. The lawsuit accuses the city and former mayor of defamation and breaking contracts over city development, according to court documents from the 4th District Court in Provo.
“The city has breached the covenants of good faith and fair dealing by its actions,” the initial complaint states. The court ordered Watkins and Alpine City pay $1,756,000 for damages to the construction companies. The lawsuit initially asked for monetary damages of $10 million.
Federal Jury Rules Against Transamerica in Battle Over Rates
The case involved the alleged use of racial data to justify rate increases on ‘investor-owned’ policies at a Los Angeles church
A federal jury found in favor of policyholders in a closely watched case that challenged the leeway life insurers have when raising rates on old policies.
The eight-person jury in Los Angeles awarded $5.6 million in damages to an investment group, DCD Partners LLC, that alleged Aegon NV’s Transamerica Life Insurance Co. impermissibly used race-based data when it raised rates by 50%. The jury found that Transamerica breached its insurance-policy contract and an obligation to deal fairly and in good faith, according to the verdict form filed Wednesday.
Recent Negligent Homicide Case Acquittal
Jury acquits WMPD officer Jody Ledoux in homeless man’s death
A six-person jury found Jody Ledoux not guilty of negligent homicide after a weeklong trial related to a December 2014 incident where the West Monroe police officer shot and killed 51-year-old Raymond Keith Martinez.
Martinez was described as drunk when Ledoux encountered him outside a convenience store in West Monroe on Dec. 4, 2014. After arriving at the store, Ledoux exited his patrol car and shot Martinez four times. Martinez died at a local hospital later that evening as a result of his injuries.
Calif. Jury Finds For Flu Remedy Maker In False Ad Trial
A California federal jury on Thursday ruled against a class of consumers alleging that Boiron Inc. misled them into buying a homeopathic remedy that didn’t provide relief for flu symptoms as advertised, rejecting claims that Boiron’s product was nothing more than a sugar pill.
Thursday’s verdict, reached after less than two hours of deliberations, followed a one-week first phase of a trial over claims that Boiron violated California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act because its product, Oscillococcinum or Oscillo, cannot provide relief of flulike symptoms as its…
Recent Criminal Case Acquittal
Levine not guilty of inappropriate touching
Joshua Mark Levine, described by witnesses over the last two weeks as a “fantastic” teacher, was found not guilty Wednesday of inappropriately touching a student in his class.
Levine, a 43-year-old teacher at Castaic Elementary School, was charged with four counts of misdemeanor inappropriate touching of female students in his class during the 2014-15 school year.
The jury remained hung—with 11 jurors voting not guilty and one voting guilty—on the remaining misdemeanor counts involving the other three girls.
Levine’s lawyer, Todd Melnik, asked the court to dismiss the three unresolved charges and, when a lawyer representing the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office voiced no objection, Commissioner Jeffrey M. Harkavy dismissed the remaining three charges against Levine.
“I’m never teaching again,” a visibly shaken Levine told a welcoming crowd of family members and jurors who had gathered in the hallway of the Santa Clarita Courthouse.
“It’s so sad,” he said. “The thought of being in front of kids right now makes me shake.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.
One juror called the case against Levine a witch hunt launched by educators at Castaic Elementary School.
“I had a hard time sleeping,” said the female juror. “It made me physically ill. For this man being blamed for something he did not do.
“He needs to take this further.”
The juror said she was convinced the Castaic teachers were out to get Levine.
The jury of eight women and four men spent a full day deliberating Wednesday but most of the day was spent debating the issue of sexual intent, said the jury’s foreman outside of the courtroom.
“The prosecutor didn’t bring up sexual intent,” he said. “She showed a lot of stuff that happened. It was sexual intent that was not proven.”
When the “not guilty” verdict was read, Levine began crying, his shoulders shaking.
Levine’s wife, father and mother sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the courtroom as the verdict was being read.
His attorney put an assuring hand on his client’s shoulder as the Commissioner polled each of the jurors about their being deadlocked over the three unresolved charges.
The trial lasted more than two weeks with testimony delivered by the four female students, and several educators, including current and former teachers and principals.
Detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau arrested Levine on May 14, 2015.
Dr. Jo-Ellan Dimitrius interviewed for Will True-Crime Docuseries Change How Jurors Think?
Though if you ask professional jury consultants, someone plucked fresh from devouring Making a Murderer might not even make it past their first day of civic duty. “You would want to have the attorney ask: ‘How long did you watch it? With whom might you have had conversations about what you saw? Have you done anything in furtherance of your feelings about the show? For instance, some sort of social-media post,’” advises trial consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who’s helped select juries for clients representing both plaintiffs and defendants, notably including O.J. Simpson’s 1994 defense team. “By gaining that information, you’re going to get a good mind-set of [whether] they were biased in favor of Mr. Avery and against the prosecution or police.” Moreover, she projects that potential jurors’ familiarity with Making a Murderer in particular “will be a significant question on criminal cases from here on out. We used to ask those questions about CSI because it was pretty predictive of someone who was a defense-prone juror.”