Monday, February 22, 2010

Chicago Criminal lawyer says money doesn't guarantee a fair and impartial jury of your peers

This Chicago Criminal lawyer just heard every defense attorney's favorite words of "Not Guilty" last week.

From Twitter:

14 Citizens took time off from work,heard the facts,listened to the evidence, and deliberated to a Verdict! Not Guilty!Thank you!
4:12 PM Feb 18th via web

Ava George Stewart
But what if the verdict went the other way and the defendant was found guilty? What if a juror said she wanted to acquit but felt threatened? Ugh! The nightmare begins:

February 22, NYC, NY

A holdout juror in the trial of Brooke Astor’s son has told defense lawyers that she voted to convict him and an estate lawyer for crimes she did not believe they committed out of fear for her safety.

By now they had developed friendships, in-jokes and rituals, relationships that would be tested in the days to come. During the many hours spent waiting in the jury room while the lawyers argued, Olga Zugor had been giving chess lessons to one of the male jurors, a computer technician who worked at the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as to Ilona Gale. Barbara Tomanelli, a 71-year-old retired executive secretary, and Philip Bump had done crossword puzzles. Two women had especially hit it off: 52-year-old TV director Yvonne Fernandez, who had grown up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood (her high-school boyfriend had been a member of the gang the Latin Kings), and petite Judi DeMarco, a 46-year-old lawyer who had worked in state government for Eliot Spitzer and recently joined Bloomberg LP. The two women joked that they were “gypsy sisters,” lunching together and going for margaritas after court.

In closing arguments, defense lawyer Fred Hafetz’s fundamental premise was that Tony’s power of attorney allowed him free rein in running Brooke Astor’s affairs, and thus he was entitled to give himself a large raise and treat himself to a yacht captain and $600,000 in expenses for Cove End, Brooke’s Maine estate (which she had given to her son, and he had transferred to Charlene six months later). Many of the jurors were skeptical of this argument, including Kaagan, who had handled the power of attorney for his parents. But Judi DeMarco (who did not respond to Vanity Fair’s efforts to reach her) believed the defense arguments. As the jury hunkered down to try to reach a verdict, on every count in which the power of attorney was involved the vote was 11 to 1, with Judi as the lone holdout. As she later told Bloomberg News, where she is employed, she believed that Brooke Astor had given her son such “unfettered power of attorney that he could take a painting off the wall or run a business the way he wanted to.” In the jury room, she began to repeatedly tell her colleagues, “I feel threatened,” a comment many jurors found strange, to say the least. As Olga Zugor puts it, “Judi is a drama queen. I like her, I have no ill feeling, but I felt like, Let’s be reasonable.”

DeMarco began sobbing and ran into the ladies’ room, followed closely by forewoman Jezycki, who tried to calm things down. But DeMarco threatened to run out of the jury room unless Jezycki sent a note to the judge. The two women quickly crafted a note that read, “Due to heated argument, a juror feels personally threatened by comments made by another juror. With regards to her personal safety, she wishes to be dismissed anonymously.”
Have you figured out which juror has been vocal in a change of heart from voting with her fellow jurors guilty?

The defense is seeking to overturn the convictions against Mr. Marshall, 85, and the estate lawyer, Francis X. Morrissey Jr., arguing that their clients were deprived of a fair trial because the judge, Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr., failed to question any of the jurors when he received a note that one of them felt threatened.

Legal experts say that the motion, a copy of which The New York Times obtained from a party in the case, made a compelling argument for a new trial.

“Normally, when jurors, after hearing a case, change their minds, it is not likely that a trial judge would overturn that juror’s verdict,” said George Bundy Smith, who spent 14 years on the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, and is now a partner at Chadbourne & Parke. “But here, you have an element that’s unusual, namely that the juror felt fear and was actually frightened. I think that our system could not just let that go. I think a judge would have to hold a hearing on that.”

But in her interview with the defense, Ms. DeMarco gave a more detailed account of what happened. She said that she thought Ms. Fernandez was flashing gang signs at her as she moved menacingly toward her, because Ms. Fernandez had previously told her that she once dated a member of the Latin Kings, according to the affidavits. Another juror had to restrain Ms. Fernandez, Ms. DeMarco said.

“None of the jurors were willing to give either of these defendants a shot in that jury room,” she said. “I held out as long as I could,” adding that she was “not proud of what I did.”
Who says a jury of one's peers guarantees a fair trial? If Anthony Marshall, the scion of the Astor estate, can't get a fair trial who can?

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