Thursday, December 8, 2011

Law of Juries

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Dugan, 2011 WL 6015752, upheld the conviction of two men for obstructing the entrances to a Planned Parenthood clinic, interfering with clinic staff and patients, in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The defendants were charged with a Class B misdemeanor under 18 U.S.C. §248(a) which makes it a crime to engage in nonviolent physical obstruction of a reproductive health facility. First time offenders are eligible for a prison sentence of up to six months and a $10,000 fine. The statute which dates from 1994 is the subject of an ALR annotation, Validity, Construction, and Application of Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), 134 A.L.R. Fed. 507, (available in Westlaw).

The conviction followed a one-day bench trial held last year in the US District Court for the Southern District where Judge Robert W. Sweet found both men guilty and ordered them to serve four-month prison sentences. Defendants appealed arguing they were entitled to a jury trial. The per curiam opinion stated that “The right to a jury trial is guaranteed by Article III, § 2 and the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the Supreme Court has long held that this right only applies to prosecutions of “serious,” and not “petty,” offenses.” For more detail, see the NY Law Journal article on the decision.

The Brooklyn Law School Library collection has The Law of Juries by Nancy Gertner and Judith Mizner with chapters: Right to a jury trial; Compositional challenges; The law of voir dire; Peremptory challenges; Venue; Jury nullification; Dealing with jury conduct/misconduct; The structure of the jury; Issues arising from jury deliberations.

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