Court rules juror's crush on lawyer is fine
Posted in In The News on June 19, 2011 by Administrator
By ROBERT GAVIN Staff writer
Published 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, June 15, 2011
If you were on trial for manslaughter, would you be OK with a juror who had a crush on one of the prosecutors?
Well, the state's highest court has no issue with it whatsoever.
The Court of Appeals said as much last week in a ruling that upheld the 2008 manslaughter conviction of Alicia Lewie of Glens Falls who was found guilty of recklessly causing the death of her 8-month-old son in 2007.
The 15th page of the 19-page decision noted that Lewie's attorney, Matthew Hug, argued the trial judge erred by not removing a female juror who had sent an "odd and inappropriate" note during deliberations.
"The note mentioned, among other things, the breakup of the juror's marriage and her view that the male lawyer who sat in the second chair at the prosecution table was a 'cutie,'" the ruling explained. "The juror asked, perhaps jokingly, to be given that lawyer's telephone number when the trial was over."
Any bias there?
Not according to the Court of Appeals.
"We think the trial judge handled this problem quite skillfully," stated the decision written by Associate Judge Robert Smith. "After disclosing the note to counsel and discussing it with them, he interviewed the juror in counsel's presence; explained to her gently that the note was inappropriate; and obtained her assurance that nothing, including her favorable impression of a prosecutor, would prevent her from being fair to both sides."
It continued, "Nothing in the interview, or in the note itself, suggests that the juror was biased."
Lewie's appeal argued the juror's actions demonstrated she had an eccentric personality.
"Eccentrics are not barred from serving on juries," the decision stated.
The ruling explained jurors can be discharged only if they are "grossly unqualified" or engage in "misconduct of a substantial nature."
In this case, the decision continued, "This juror was not grossly unqualified and engaged in no substantial misconduct. There was no reason for the trial judge either to discharge her or to make further inquiry."
The decision raises the question of what, pray tell, is substantial misconduct by a juror?
In Albany, acting Supreme Court Justice Dan Lamont regularly tells jurors that if a prosecutor or defense attorney should sneeze, they should forego natural inclinations and avoid saying "God bless you."
The reason Lamont always gives? It simply "doesn't look good."
At the state's highest court, calling a prosecutor a "cutie" evidently looks good enough.
Soares on Memory Lane
The Democratic prosecutor, up for re-election in 2012, said during a speech that his challenge to Clyne was "born out of frustration." He thanked supporters saying, "I'm not arrogant enough to think that all those people came together because of me."
Soares noted the recent DWI prosecution of former Albany Police Officer Brian Lutz -- and Lutz's conversation in a Menands police station with Albany police officers' union President Christian Mesley.
In the conversation, which was videotaped, Mesley told Lutz he was unlikely to receive leniency from Soares, saying. "Brian, don't forget, you know, if we got Paul Clyne or Sol Greenberg it's easier for us to handle this kind of stuff but with this (expletive) you're not going to get any play." Greenberg, Clyne's predecessor, held the post from 1975 until September 2000.
At the fundraiser, Soares referenced the conversation as an example of "We're doing things right."
The event drew, among others, outgoing Albany County Sheriff James Campbell, Undersheriff Craig Apple, Teamsters' Local 294 official John Bulgaro, Working Families Party chair Karen Scharff and several assistant district attorneys from his office.
The fundraiser specified no amount per-head, though the minimum was said to be $50.
At no point during his speech did Soares mention the name of Lee Kindlon, who is challenging Soares in a Democratic primary next year.
The New York State Bar Association will award Troy attorney Milinda Reed, who heads the domestic violence services program at Unity House, with a Citation for Special Achievement in Public Service on Thursday.
The association noted Reed became a lawyer after surviving a near-death experience involving domestic violence.
She has developed the Law Project at Unity House, a program in its 11th year that provides free representation to victims of domestic violence in civil cases.
She will receive the award at the bar association's headquarters on Elk Street in Albany.