George Zimmerman Seeks Anonymous Jury

Lawyers for George Zimmerman today filed a motion asking the jury in his upcoming trial over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin be anonymous. The motion is here.

It's pretty unusual for a defendant (as opposed to the prosecution) to ask for an anonymous jury (sometimes called an innominate jury.) Will the state object? In at least one case, that of an outlaw motorcycle gang, the state defended a judge's discretion to order an innominate jury. (An innominate jury is one in which all information about the jurors is disclosed to the parties, with the exception of the jurors' names, addresses, and exact place of work. Some courts use the term "innominate," instead of "anonymous" because anonymous connotes a "clandestine, forbidden, and obscure" jury panel.)

Among the factors that may warrant an anonymous/innominate jury in Florida is where "extensive publicity that could enhance the possibility that jurors’ names would become public and expose them to intimidation and harassment." [More...]

According to the 11th Circuit in the Fabio Ochoa case, the first reported use of an anonymous jury was in the 1977 trial of Harlem drug kingpin Nicky Barnes in New York. (U.S. v. Barnes, 604 F.2d 121 (2d Cir. 1979). Since then, the court said they have become much more common in both state and federal courts, to prevent jury tampering, reduce risks to juror safety and limit media influence on jurors. Still, it is considered a "drastic measure" that implicates a defendant’s constitutional right to the presumption of innocence by suggesting the defendant is a dangerous person from whom the jurors must be protected. For that reason, the jury should be given an plausible explanation for why their names and personal information are being shielded. Examples: Jurors have been told that anonymity was to prevent unwanted press attention, to allow them to consider the case without apprehension and to assure them that both defendant and the government receive a fair trial.

The federal courts in the 11th Circuit (which includes Florida) have a pattern instruction that explains that anonymity "will serve to discourage inquiries from those seeking information and otherwise preserve your privacy ...against unwanted and unsolicited publicity, telephone calls, letters, questions, and the like.")

O'Mara is careful to request that the names and personal information not be withheld from the state and defense team. This is because if after the trial, it turns out a juror lied about their background, the defense might be held to have had an obligation to conduct background checks on prospective jurors. These checks can be done in real-time in the courtroom. Or, where an advance jury questionnaire is used, ahead of time. What can the lawyers check in real-time? They can use Westlaw or Lexis to check credit ratings, criminal records, and other personal information. They will check social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to get insight on potential jurors.

Another reason these checks are necessary are to protect against "stealth jurors" who will lie to get on the case, particularly to profit from it afterwards. Just last week, the judge in the Florida case of Palm Beach millionaire polo mogul John Goodman tossed his DUI manslaughter conviction and 16 year sentence because a juror failed to disclose his ex-wife had a recent DUI charge. (He later attributed the charge to contributing to the demise of the marriage.)The juror also conducted drinking experiments and self-published three books on the trial on Amazon including this information. It was the most highly publicized trial in recent Palm Beach history. (Kudos to his lawyer Roy Black for getting the conviction reversed on the motion for new trial in the trial court, and keeping his client out on bail during post-trial proceedings.) The scathing order is here.

The juror, a 69 year old retired accountant, claimed his wife's DUI arrest just slipped his mind. He's now on trial for contempt of court. O'Mara included a news clip about the case in his motion.

O'Mara's motion heavily relies on the constant prejudicial media barrage fostered by the Martin family lawyers, joined in by public figures.

He's also asking that the prospective jury panel be sequestered during voir dire. He has previously said he expects jury selection to take at least two weeks.

In related news, the state filed a motion to continue to depose Shellie Zimmerman. The motion is available here. Her lawyer intervened during her initial deposition and asserted her fifth amendment privilege. He also said she had not been endorsed as a witness, with which O'Mara and Don West agreed. The state claims O'Mara did endorse her (it refers to his witness list, where she does not appear as a named witness) and even if he didn't, it has a right under another statute to depose her.

How is it possible that the defense says it did not list her and the state says it did? The state says it listed her as a potential witness, after which the defense filed a witness list that included (the standard refrain) that it reserves the right to call “any witness identified through State’s discovery not otherwise disclosed herein”. I'm no expert on Florida deposition rules (Florida is one of the few states that allow pre-trial depositions in criminal cases) but I think it's an incredible stretch to claim the defense, by reserving its right to call a witness named by the state (whom the state could decide not to call) is a listed defense witness.

Nor does the state explain why Shellie Zimmerman, who is separately charged with perjury from her statements at George's initial bond hearing, would not have a 5th Amendment right to refuse to testify at a deposition even if the state did have the right to seek her deposition. It's not necessary that the state ask her questions about the perjury case for her privilege to apply. It's enough if her answers to any questions posed at the deposition could be used against her in the perjury case, or potentially expose her to a new and different charge. My opinion: State fail on this one. I just wonder why Shellie's lawyer initially agreed to the deposition and didn't invoke her 5th Amendment rights at the outset. Had he refused to make her available citing her 5th Amendment rights, the state would have had to issue a subpoena and he could then have filed a motion to quash.

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    I can't say what I'd like to do (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Slayersrezo on Thu May 09, 2013 at 11:14:59 PM EST
    To the Prosecution and all who are supporting this judicial farce.

    Thank you for your many patient posts and explanations of this case, Jeralyn

    You've changed at least a few minds, and given much needed help and moral support to a man who seems to have had nothing but bad luck and a stacked deck on his way to a railroading. People like you have given him an actual fighting chance.

    I'm still looking at some of the stuff the state of Florida has pulled in this case with my mouth hanging open at the utter chutzpah and disbelief. And remember I did read alot about the Duke Case here and I go to places like William Anderson's blog and Grits for Breakfast so I'm no stranger to perversions of the justice system. But this seems to be a rather egregious one. Honestly if we had a working system, I'd think quite a few of the top legal dogs in Florida would have ALOT to answer for before a bar commission and even possibly for a few of them before a criminal court.

    Could the stategy in allowing Shellie (none / 0) (#2)
    by Nettles18 on Thu May 09, 2013 at 11:27:23 PM EST
    to sit for the deposition initially, be to get an indication what strategy the State was looking to apply at trial?

    Once the team heard the State's questions and where they were going (after only 20 minutes) they shut it down.

    Had they invoked the 5th Amendment rights before going, they, the defense, wouldn't have this additional information.

    Shellie's lawyer's obligation (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Fri May 10, 2013 at 01:33:13 AM EST
     is to Shellie, not George. It's not his job to help the defense if it could possibly jeopardize his client. I don't think a criminal defense lawyer would expose a client who is presently being prosecuted to a deposition by a prosecutor in the same office that is prosecuting his client just to help the client's spouse obtain a tactical advantage in the spouse's case.

    Assuming the state is accurately relating the  sequence of events, it was O'Mara that wanted the depo shut down, and he pulled Shellie's lawyer aside and explained how to do it. Shellie's lawyer then went along with it. (See paragraphs 4 to 6 of the motion.)

    My best guess (and it's only a guess)is Shellie, her lawyer and O'Mara had no problem with Shellie talking about the events the night of the shooting, but after 20 minutes or so, the state moved onto other areas, perhaps text messages or her conversations with witnesses on George's witness list,and the questions implied one or both of them were coaching witnesses, which resulted in O'Mara, and then her lawyer, wanting it shut down. Even if the the implied accusations were completely false, the lawyers would want to end the questioning. Denials and explanations are unlikely to change the beliefs of a prosecutor whose mind is already made up.

    For practical purposes, a deposition doesn't seem to be much different from a debriefing of a prospective grand jury witness or defendant who decides to cooperate, except that its not voluntary. When a debriefing goes south, i.e., the agents or prosecutor asking the questions make it clear they don't believe the person or start accusing them of other misconduct, the defense shuts it down. There's no point to continuing if the questioners don't believe the client being questioned. The client isn't going to get the benefit from being debriefed (immunity or leniency) if prosecutors think he or she is lying. Even if the client is telling the truth, continuing to answer just provides more fodder to the spin the prosecution is intent on putting on the answers.

    With a deposition, since it's not a voluntary q and a, the defense needs a legal reason to shut it down. Here it was that Shellie wasn't listed as a defense witness and had a 5th Amendment privilege (both of which could have been raised initially.) So I think the state got accusatory with Shellie, probably about events after the night of the shooting, and the lawyers used a legal defense to shut it down, since unlike at a voluntary debriefing, they can't just say, "We're done here" and leave.

    Parent | Reply to This (delete) (suppress comment)


    Naive Non-Lawyer Question (none / 0) (#22)
    by nomatter0nevermind on Sat May 11, 2013 at 05:47:14 AM EST
    I don't see how the 5th Amendment objection holds up. It can be raised against specific questions, and anything incriminating that does slip by would be inadmissible in the perjury trial.

    It doesn't take xmen powers (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jack203 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 08:15:08 PM EST
    to lurk around in the shadows.  If GZ didn't follow him, I am quite sure GZ wouldn't have been assaulted.

    The cell phone on the ground and not in TM's pocket is a discrepancy.  Chalk one up for the TM side. Now the score is 28 to 3.

    My point is Riddick, look at all the facts, not just the ones that support your position.


    What does she have to hide? (none / 0) (#17)
    by Jack203 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 08:20:12 PM EST

    You do sure seem excited about this farce of a prosecution including GZ's wife too.

    I, for one, could not care less about Shelley being on the witness list.  It doesnt make me nervous in the least.

    If you find comfort it, I wouldn't get your hopes up to high.


    "I'd like to now how..." (none / 0) (#18)
    by unitron on Fri May 10, 2013 at 11:37:53 PM EST
    ...the cell phone was found on the ground."


    Via eyeball.

    Why was it there in the first place?

    Probably because it fell out of Martin's hoodie pocket, just like the flashlight near it probably fell out of Zimmerman's jacket pocket.


    I didn't say anything about... (none / 0) (#30)
    by unitron on Sat May 11, 2013 at 07:29:04 PM EST
    ...who attacked whom, or even if someone attacked someone else, but we do know from witnesses other than Zimmerman that he and Martin were both on the ground in some kind of struggle, and the most logical explanation is that during all that stuff fell out of pockets.

    The Treehouse Divorced me (none / 0) (#28)
    by Nettles18 on Sat May 11, 2013 at 07:13:28 PM EST
    and thank you very much Jeralyn for your response.
    - Annette

    I forgot (none / 0) (#31)
    by boricuafudd on Sat May 11, 2013 at 09:48:52 PM EST
    "Secondly, I would like another re-enactment so I can see how TM was able to SEE GZ get out of the car and follow him and hide and attack.  TM would had to have x-men like powers being able to read George's mind that he was getting out of the car and coming in his direction, so get ready to hide here he comes."

    TM did not have line of sight to see GZ because while TM had disappeared into the shadows when he turned down the dog path, as soon as GZ got to the top of the T only he woud be visible in silhouette at the top the T.  IOW GZ was visible to TM while wasn't.

    It's a simple point but most people miss it. All TM had to do was look back, and he would be able to observed GZ without being seen.


    MKS (none / 0) (#4)
    by Slayersrezo on Thu May 09, 2013 at 11:33:33 PM EST
    I don't know where you got the impression I wasn't for Miranda warnings or the presumption of innocence.

    I'm not that one guy(can't quite remember his name but he's posted a lot) on here who always seems to favor the prosecution.

    I think prosecutors have way too much unchecked power. And while I would keep (though seriously reform) the death penalty and increase some penalties, if I had my ideal world far fewer crimes would exist, far fewer people would be in prison, most penalties would be decreased or done away with, mens rea would always be an element of a crime, and an accused's legal rights would be paramount.

    stalking ? (none / 0) (#7)
    by ding7777 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 11:56:06 AM EST
    Are you using a legal definition of stalking or a Crump misinformation definition?

    I didn't catch it either (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Fri May 10, 2013 at 12:04:16 PM EST
    and now that I have, it's been deleted, as was a comment quoting it. MKS is banned from posting on this topic for blatant misrepresentation of the disclosed facts.

    Query (none / 0) (#10)
    by nomatter0nevermind on Fri May 10, 2013 at 12:34:27 PM EST
    getting out of one's vehicle to get an address or see wherein a suspect was running (as Zimmerman had done multiple times in the past with no incident)

    What were these multiple occasions?

    That is Incorrect (none / 0) (#11)
    by RickyJim on Fri May 10, 2013 at 01:36:53 PM EST
    Apparently getting out of one's vehicle to get an address or see wherein a suspect was running (as Zimmerman had done multiple times in the past with no incident) constitutes "stalking" now.

    As anyone familiar with the thread "Previous NEN Calls" under Evidence Discussion on the TL Forum knows, Zimmerman did not get out of his vehicle to get an address or see wherein a suspect was running previously. He was a model of caution and seemed to be quite concerned that the subject he was reporting might notice him.  Why he was different on Feb. 26, 2012 is a subject for speculation.  One guess might be based on the fact that his previous calls did not lead to anybody being apprehended.  

    One guess (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jack203 on Fri May 10, 2013 at 08:10:40 PM EST
    "One guess might be based on the fact that his previous calls did not lead to anybody being apprehended."

    Pure speculation and a lousy guess.


    Excellent Guess (none / 0) (#19)
    by nomatter0nevermind on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:09:09 AM EST
    Zimmerman expressed concern about suspicious persons getting away, on the NEN call, and twice to Singleton (2/26-1,3:39-4:08, 9:51-10:03).


    In the interview, Zimmerman was responding to Singleton asking him to explain 'why it ended up, what it ended up to, to where this, this, this boy got shot.' (2/26-1, 2:44-53)

    See discussion here.  


    please stay on topic (none / 0) (#21)
    by Jeralyn on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:26:00 AM EST
    which is the legal filings and discuss other aspects on the forums. Thanks.

    Suspect (none / 0) (#20)
    by nomatter0nevermind on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:19:53 AM EST
    Webster's Third International, 2002

    suspect n : one who is suspected

    suspect vb 2 : to imagine (one) to be guilty or culpable on slight evidence or without proof