Melton, through counsel, has attempted to get Judge Dan Jordan to reconsider drawing a jury from his second federal trial only from the “bottom six” counties on the Gulf Coast.
Motion is here. The guts of it are as follows.
The venire was drawn from all 45 counties of the Southern District. There was no objection to that by any party. The court summoned 100 veniremen and 95 appeared.
Although many of the 95 veniremen had heard of the case, a qualified jury of 12 impartial persons was nonetheless selected to serve as petit jurors. No motion to disqualify any petit
juror or alternate juror was ever made by any party on the grounds of partiality. The government did move, during deliberations, to disqualify one juror but that was on the basis
of an allegation that the juror was not participating appropriately, not on the allegation that the juror was partial to either side. Upon thorough investigation, the court denied the motion.
It must be accepted, therefore, that a fair and impartial jury, drawn from the entire 45 county Southern District, was seated in the first trial. The government has produced no evidence
to rebut the presumption that an impartial venire can be likewise drawn, and an impartial petit jury selected, from the entire 45 county Southern District. In its response to the court’s
invitation to comment on jury selection, the government appended some anecdotal information about coverage of the case by local media outlets. Nothing is different from the
areas of coverage by those media outlets today than it was before the first trial began. The government failed to show by any evidence that potential veniremen have been unduly
influenced for or against either side by any media coverage. In short, all the government has shown is that there was coverage, but it showed no prejudice to its position by that coverage.
The Government counters that motion with their own opposition.
There is some real irony that we are now about to have a judge picking which will be by any reasonable account a “more white” jury from a much less racially diverse subsegment of the district to try a black man . . . for civil rights violations (againts another black man and black woman) . . . for a second time. Ultimately, Melton should theoretically be able to get a fair jury down on the Coast, but I doubt that the result will be substantially different. If the verdict or the votes are substantially different on the same set of facts, then either the district wide jury or the coast jury would be prejudicial. Two impartial juries looking at the same set of facts should theoretically render the same result (or close to it, anyway). The truth is that Melton’s defense didn’t even have to try that hard to hang this jury. The government called a bunch of witnesses over a week. Melton’s defense called 4 witnesses in a day and a half, had no opening statement, and the defendants didn’t take the stand . . . AND STILL most of the counts were 7-5 votes to ACQUIT.
The other real irony is that everyone knows what happened. The facts are not at issue. Melton screwed up huge. Melton deserves some punishment. However, he has had an impartial jury of his peers failed to convict him on the same charges . . . twice. It’s time for the feds to offer a no jail-time deal and make this go away.
hattip on motions to the Clarion Ledger