Friday, May 12, 2006

The Lone Juror

Contrary to earlier reports, it turns out that it was a single juror who found that the death penalty should not be imposed on Zacarias Moussaoui. Previously, experts and pundits alike believed that there were three holdouts based on the questionaire that was released.

Some, like Ace of Spades, think that this raises serious questions about whether someone lied in the voir dire process that was supposed to weed out those who were opposed to the death penalty on any number of grounds (religious, ideological, etc.) It certainly is a possibility. The jury was supposed to be death-qualified, which essentially means that everyone on the jury was already in favor of imposing a death penalty generally - but would have to decide on whether to impose it in the specific case of Moussaoui. Another possibility is that this individual didn't believe that the evidence as presented to the jurors was sufficient to impose the death penalty.

It may be some time before we'd know how this went down because the jurors secretly balloted and the person who apparently held out did not speak up in the deliberations. In other words, it appears that this person was already set against imposing the death penalty and took no steps to actually deliberate.

James Joyner wonders about that latter point:
I don’t know what the usual procedure is in the federal courts but it strikes me as quite unusual that jury votes would be done by secret ballot. It would seem a fundamental part of being a juror to voice one’s vote and rationale in deliberation with one’s fellows.
The way our justice system is set up is that we demand unanimous consent to sentence someone to death. That a single juror can affect that determination by voting against the death penalty isn't troubling. The troubling part is how the lone juror managed to do it in this case.

Joyner also notes Charles Krauthammer's insight into the whole Moussaoui case - namely that this should never have gotten to this point and Moussaoui, along with other suspected terrorists can and should be tried before military tribunals. They should not have access to US civilian courts.

That would certainly seem to alleviate some of the concerns and questionable decisions by Judge Brinkema and the jury. Betsy Newmark notes that from the sound of things, the jury did its job but was thwarted by the lone holdout.
From the foreman's words, it sounds as if they worked very deliberately through the evidence and totally discounted Moussaoui's testimony and rants in the trial. But there was still that anonymous lone holdout and that is why he will spend the rest of his life in a 7 x 12 cell.
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