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Monday, January 13, 2014

Ind. Courts - The Good Wife and a two-jury trial; three-jury trial proposed in Indianapolis [Updated]

Last night on CBS, the hit legal show, The Good Wife, featured a case with two defendants, two sets of attorneys, and two juries, all tried together in the same courtroom before one judge. The name of the show was "We, the Juries." The trial turned into something of a mess.

Here in Indianapolis there is talk in the Richmond Hill case of a concurrent trial with three juries, one for each defendant. See this Fox 59 story by Russ McQuaid:

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 10, 2014) – An attorney representing Richmond Hill suspect Monserrate Shirley has filed an objection to a prosecutor’s plan to hold his client’s trial concurrently with the cases against two other defendants.

James Voyles filed an objection with Judge Shelia Carlisle in opposition to the proposal for concurrent trials by the Marion County Prosecutors Office.

Voyles argues that trying all three defendants at the same time in front of three seperate juries in a Super Trial would be a “recipe for mistrial disaster.”

Voyles claims he would not be able to mount a vigorous defense for his client if agressive cross-examination or an inadvertent comment by a witness could contaminate either of the juries hearing the cases against co-defendants Bob and Mark Leonard. * * *

The Marion County Prosecutor has suggested, due to cost and logistical challenges, that all three trials be held side-by-side before three juries and one judge with jurors excused during sensitive or contradictory testimony.

Voyles argues that Indiana law does not spell out guidelines for concurrent trials and that such an arrangement would be a, “breeding ground for confusion,” as jurors would naturally speculate why they were being excluded during some testimony.

The attorney writes that the, “stakes are high,” for his client who faces the possibility of a life sentence without parole if convicted and that the prosecutor’s proposal would, “gut,” Shirley’s due process rights.

Voyles also shares the prosecutor’s misgivings over trial, security, evidence and jury housing challenges.

Mark Leonard’s attorneys have also filed an objection to the plan.

Judge Shelia Carlisle extended the deadline until today to receive counsel objections to the proposal.

Here is a long Jan. 10th story from WTHR:

All three suspects accused in the Richmond Hill neighborhood explosion oppose the state's proposal of holding one trial with three separate juries.

In a new court filing, attorneys for Monserrate Shirley say concurrent trials will make it difficult for their client to get a fair trial. They also question using a large and complicated case as a test case for concurrent trials.

Attorneys for Mark and Bob Leonard made substantially the same arguments in papers filed at two weeks earlier. * * *

After the judge agreed to give each suspect a separate trial, prosecutors proposed holding one trial with a different jury for each suspect. They argued the cost and resources needed for three separate trials would be prohibitive.

Shirley's attorneys say that plan will likely violate her due process right and her right to a fair trial. Attorney Jim Voyles also says the amount of evidence "would require the trials to take longer than if separated out because of the shuffling back and forth of juries."

He also says concurrent trials will cause problems for attorneys who may not be able to "zealously advocate" for their clients in fear of causing a mistrial. He says it will be a problem for attorneys reaching a crucial point in a cross examination to have to slow down to avoid crossing a boundary or to have to stop for a jury to leave.

Voyles calls the concurrent trial plan is a "logistical nightmare" as jurors are moved in and out of the courtroom because of evidence they may not be allowed to hear. He writes that "will spawn more speculation and suspicion that can ever be cured by any sort of admonishment."

The filing also suggests two different attorneys would need to cross examine each witness.

"The complexity of the case makes concurrent trials a recipe for mistrial disaster," Voyles writes. He points out the unpredictability of many of the witnesses, especially on cross examination. "It could be a single statement made by one of these witnesses who have this type of information that could taint any of the defendants' rights."

As part of their argument, Mark's attorneys wrote, "The State is asking this Court to conduct an experiment with what may arguably be the largest trial in Marion County history." They say this is an especially bad idea because of the high stakes for the defendants who face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Shirley's attorney points out that there is no precedent in Indiana about handle concurrent trials. He cites several cases from around the country where judges have issued cautions about using multiple juries, particularly in complex cases.

Attorneys for Bob Leonard call efforts for concurrent trials an "experiment" and a "gimmick."

Attorneys for both Shirley and Mark Leonard express concern about finding an appropriate facility for concurrent trials given the space, security and logistical needs. Attorneys for Bob Leonard write, "Any consideration for judicial economy achieved by simultaneous juries in this Case will no doubt be far eclipsed by the costs and security concerns associated with moving simultaneous juries somewhere outside the Marion County City-County Building."

[More] A reader writes:
I saw the show and agree three juries would be chaos. They would hold the trial in a gymnasium? Lawyers and witnesses would be expected not to mention certain things in front of certain juries, but in a trial that spans weeks or months mistakes would be made. Just one mistake is enough for a mistrial. The only thing more expensive than three separate trials would be retrying the case again and again.
A second reader writes:
Pre-filed testimony is regularly used in court and administrative proceedings. (I call it "litigation lite"). It should be ordered here in each of the three trials. 80% of the evidence is going to be a no brainer in each of these trials. Jury selection takes place, and the three juries are empaneled. Agreed upon pre-filed testimony (to be repeated in open court) and exhibits will be presented to all three juries. Thereafter, contested evidence and conflicting evidence can be presented to each of the juries, separately. The juries should be sequestered from each other, but only one court room is needed to shuffle them in and out. I did watch the "Good Wife" episode last night: art imitates life.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 13, 2014 01:55 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts