Challenging Jury Selection in Tarek Mehanna Trial

October 26th, 2011|

Followers of The Jury Box Blog know that I have been following closely the case of Tarek Mehanna, since he was arrested and arraigned nearly two years ago. Mehanna, a pharmacist from Sudbury, MA, is accused of engaging in terrorist activities and "providing material support" for Al Qaeda. In addition to have allegedly attempted (unsuccessfully) to receive jihadist training in Yemen and plan the bombing of an American shopping mall, Mehanna is accused of translating into English and posting to websites hundreds of pro-Al Qaeda documents. His case then presents a very difficult question. Can publishing propaganda be considered "providing

Ferdaus Arrest complicates Mehanna trial

October 5th, 2011|

When did Massachusetts move from the Northeast to the Middle East?Rezwan FerdausMassachusetts residents awoke last week to the disturbing news that yet another resident of the Commonwealth had been arrested for Al Qaeda inspired terrorist activity. Rezwan Ferdaus is alleged to have concocted an elaborate plot to fly drone airplanes, loaded with explosives, into the U.S. Capitol, and then have snipers located nearby to shoot officials fleeing the explosions. Mr. Ferdaus is an American citizen with an engineering degree from Northeastern University, located right in the heart of Boston. Tarek MehannaIt will be several years before Mr. Ferdaus is tried for his

Facing the Fearful Jury: Terror Management Theory in the Courtroom

September 6th, 2011|

A few years ago, a collection of scholars at Harvard realized that there existed a great deal of psychological, neurological and sociological research on human cognition and behavior with profound implications for the practice of law. In order to explore these implications in a systematic way, they started the Harvard Project on Law and Mind Sciences, (PLMS) housed at Harvard Law School.The founders launched several initiatives at once. They established The Situationalist, a blog devoted to the intersection of mind sciences and legal institutions. Rather than having the blog written by the same person all the time, The Situationalist invites

Clemens Hit by Pitch: Prosecutor gets Tossed

July 18th, 2011|

All Part of the GameIn baseball, there are a lot of things against the rules that players engage in all the time (Ironically, for a while there, I guess Steroid use was one of them). Pitchers try to doctor balls. Base-runners steal signs. Hitters obliterate the line at the back of the batter's box so that they can stand further behind home plate. Runners take out opposing fielders with hard slides, with no apparent effort to actually reach the base to which they were running. Pitchers throw at opposing batters, in retaliation for some real or imagined infraction against a

Can Whitey Bulger Get a Fair Trial in Massachusetts?

June 24th, 2011|

Interview on WBZ Radio 1030This morning, I was interviewed by Carl Stevens of WBZ Radio 1030, the major all-news radio station here in the Boston area. Carl wanted to know what I thought were the challenges associated with seating an impartial jury to try someone so locally notorious.I talked a bit about how important it will be to handle jury selection properly from a procedural perspective. The list of jury panel members must be made available to the attorneys well in advance. There must be a very extensive supplemental juror questionnaire (SJQ). Finally, there must be meaningful voir dire, ideally

ASTC Pro Bono Initiative helping bring Baby Doc to justice

June 23rd, 2011|

Not a Pediatric Medical Malpractice CaseThe Baby Doc in question is none other than Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, former dictator of Haiti (1971-1986), following the death of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Amid the chaos following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and the mess that was the Haitian presidential elections, Baby Doc Duvalier somehow managed to fly from France to Haiti, not withstanding the absence of a valid passport. There is a lot of speculation and uncertainty surrounding his decision to return to Haiti. Duvalier, of course, claims that he returned to help his country recover. Most outside

An Oldie but a Goodie: Tips for Voir Dire

April 5th, 2011|

In reviewing the traffic on my website recently, I was struck by how much more often one particular article was accessed than any other. I used to write a column on trial strategy for Lawyers USA (formerly Lawyers Weekly USA), and this particular article on voir dire strategy from 2006 seems to be very popular, even today. So, in the spirit of giving the public what it wants, here is that article in its entirety.Enjoy!Indirect Questions Reap Most Information in Oral Voir Dire By Edward P. Schwartz October 9, 2006 In my last column, I discussed many of the advantages of using a supplemental juror

Evidence Driven Deliberations enhance accuracy and consensus

February 1st, 2011|

A Missouri jury is confronted with a cold caseIn 1976, Becky Doisy disappeared. A man named Johnny Wright was wanted for questioning in the case. The problem was that Johnny Wright was nowhere to be found. More than thirty years later, Johnny Wright was discovered living as Errol Edwards is Georgia and then Texas. The state's case depended on the testimony from Wright's former roommate, Harry Moore, as well as that of William Simmons, a man who knew Wright and Moore from a local methadone clinic. So, the jury was faced with deciding a murder case, based upon little more than

The Fifth Amendment vs. The Third Degree

January 14th, 2011|

Edward Fleury declines to testify in his own defenseMassachussens, parents and gun advocates have all been following closely the trial of Edward Fleury, a retired police chief, who is on trial for involuntary manslaughter in conjunction with a gun show he organized and promoted. At the show, Christopher Bezilj, age 8, accidently shot himself to death while firing an Uzi machine gun. My earlier posts on this trial can be found here and here.The prosecution recently rested its case, confronting Rosemary Scapicchio, Flery's defense lawyer, with some difficult strategic decisions. One that faces almost every criminal defense team is whether

Blame Avoidance v. Blame Deflection: The Gun Show Uzi trial

January 7th, 2011|

Gun show Uzi trial highlights emotional impact of tragedyThe manslaughter trial of Edward Fleury, a retired Police Chief, finally got underway in Springfield, MA this week. The trial stems from a fatal accident at a gun show organized by Mr. Fleury, at which an 8-year-old boy, Christopher Bizilj, fatally shot himself with a lightweight Uzi submachine gun.Prior to the original start date for the trial (which was delayed for over a month), I wrote a blog post in which I speculated about the kind of strategy the defense would have to employ in this case. Both Fleury and the two