Jurors perform an important role in the legal system. As annoying as it may feel to open your mailbox and receive an envelope titled “Jury Summons,” serving on a jury gives you, as a citizen, a say as to what goes on in a courtroom. However, a juror’s actions may sometimes be th
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals case of United States v. Jean Oscar and Hypico Beaulieu, affirmed the convictions of two defendants, Oscar and Beaulieu, for drug trafficking and illegal possession of firearms. At the trial, the evidence showed that an undercover agent made contact with Oscar and Beaulieu on several occasions for drugs and guns. The defendants appealed both their convictions and sentences.
Beaulieu first appealed the district court’s answer to two jury questions. The jury asked two questions about convicted felons and their ability to be “around” a gun (even if the person does not know it is there). The Court held that the district court was proper when it told jury members to look back to the definition of possession in the jury instructions. The district court did not need to provide additional information, nor did it misstate the law.
Oscar and Beaulieu also challenged district court rulings made during the jury deliberations. Multiple times, a juror expressed to the court that she was biased and that her emotions were controlling her decision-making process. The government argued to have her excused from the jury; alternatively, Oscar and Beaulieu’s attorneys argued for a mistrial (meaning that that trial would have to be completely redone). The district court agreed with the government and removed the juror, replacing her with an alternate. The Eleventh Circuit found this dismissal was appropriate because there was good cause to do so, seeing as she could not follow the law.
In addition to their jury-based appeals, Beaulieu and Oscar appealed on a few other issues. Beaulieu claimed he suffered prejudice when the government referred to a witness as a liar. The Court ruled that this was proper for the government’s closing argument.
Oscar also appealed based on prejudice. He argued that it was unfair that his trial was not severed from Beaulieu’s. However, the Court again ruled against him, holding that he did not show this prejudice and that the defendants were closely linked. Finally, Beaulieu appealed his sentence based on the act it was sentenced on. Because the court improperly evaluated his crimes, Beaulieu was able to succeed on this part of his appeal.
The jury can have an important impact on the outcome of a your case. The questions a jury asks as well as the actions of a particular juror can sway an outcome. In Jefferson County, Alabama there is one judge that will allow jurors to ask witnesses questions from the jury box, which may be unconstitutional, but help a defense lawyer understand a juror.
You should have an experienced, knowledgeable attorney on your side to make sure that you make the best arguments if these issues arise. Contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for an attorney with the experience and knowledge that can make all the difference.