juries

Conspiracy is probably the most charged offense in the federal courts. At core, its elements are simple (generally). A and B have completed the crime of conspiracy if they (1) have an agreement to do something illegal and (2) some co-conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The overt act does not have to be illegal.

So, if Larry says to Doug, “Let’s lie through email to potential investors about how viable our real estate plan is,” then Doug says “That’s a great idea, let’s do it!” and the two put together a letter they would email to potential investors that contains a number of lies about how viable an investment is, they’ve probably conspired to commit wire fraud.

The tricky bit is that the agreement that’s at the core of a conspiracy charge — like many kinds of contracts — can be implied. It’s rare that folks in a conspiracy negotiate the terms of the conspiracy or memorialize it.

So, if Larry and Doug just sit down and work — together — on a letter that lies to investors, one may (depending on the other facts in the case) think that the two have an implied agreement to commit fraud and that they’re guilty of participating in a fraud conspiracy.

The tricky part is when one person says, in essence, it would be really freaking cool to do X (where X is illegal) but doesn’t really mean that she wants to do X.

For example, some people may think that it would be funny to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly. But just because Doug tells Larry that it would be cool to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly, and Larry then looks up Justice Scalia’s next public appearance, does not necessarily mean that either one of them actually intends to storm Justice Scalia’s security detail just to blow on the Justice’s stomach.

And, of course, a jury is most likely to find that Doug and Larry are guilty the more they’re doing something that the jurors themselves think of as not funny and, in fact, really quite repugnant.

Like kidnapping, killing, and eating women, or trying to foment a jihad….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Attempted Cannibalism and Furthering Jihad: Two Views of Intent in a Criminal Conspiracy”

* There’s a guy called the “Good-Grammar Bandit” out there and he’s a high priority target of the FBI? Allow me to take this opportunity to tell the FBI their doing a good job. [Lowering the Bar]

* Some folks have asked me incredulously about yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs item about Louisiana and Oregon allowing convictions with non-unanimous juries. So here’s some background on how that came to be. [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* Speaking of Louisiana, a lawyer has filed suit against Morris Bart, a major personal injury law firm, for unpaid wages. From what we’re hearing this may be the tip of the iceberg for these sorts of allegations — lots of people have been leaving the firm recently and that’s a recipe for complaints going both ways. [Louisiana Record]

* Florida may not regulate real guns any time soon, but one 11th Circuit judge is ready to regulate the hell out of shotgun pleadings! [South Florida Lawyers Blog]

* Lawyers are bad at social media. They’re bad at social reality, why did we expect them to be good at social virtuality? [CMS Wire]

* ADA’s father was kidnapped (and recovered). Yikes. [WRAL]

* A follow-up on our prior Sriracha lawsuit coverage. [USA Today]

* A look at the legal issues in the most recent episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you saw it (and Captain America to the extent they are intertwined), you know there were some heavy legal issues at play. [Legal Geeks]

* Want to see a really terrible version of 12 Angry Men? Watch it in Louisiana or Oregon, the two states that allow criminal convictions even when jurors are holding out. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to fix that, let’s see if they will. [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* Speaking of 12 Angry Men, this chart of the Dungeons & Dragons alignments of each juror is entertaining. [Imgur]

* The judge in the Janice and Ira Schacter kerfuffle invoked Above the Law in her decision as proof that the accusations against Ira Schacter were in the public eye. Thanks for specifically promoting us over the rest of the NY media Justice Laura Drager! [NY Post]

* Watch a bunch of law students talk about cats on Facebook. Will it end in douchebag posturing and threats of lawsuits? Of course it will! [Legal Cheek]

* “Volunteer Liquor Commissioner” was disciplined for operating a Facebook page for people complaining about the police. He’s suing. Better question is what does a “Volunteer Liquor Commissioner” even do? [IT-Lex]

* Allegations that Disney ripped off the trailer for Frozen from an animated short. They should really let it go. [Hollywood Reporter]

* Chief Justice John Roberts says he’s a minimalist. He’s wrong. [Election Law Blog]

* Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP. The IRS decided to keep going with the old product. So now your tax records are at risk. Enjoy the fruits of budgeting with anti-IRS legislators! [TaxProf Blog]

* A Pennsylvania newspaper just retracted its 1863 editorial panning the Gettysburg Address. Civil War CYA is all the rage these days. First Mississippi outlaws slavery, now this. [NBC News]

* “Man fired cannon during dispute.” That sums it up. [My FoxNY]

* Kai the Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker indicted for the murder of an elderly lawyer. His defense should invoke his maxim “even if you make mistakes you’re lovable.” [Huffington Post]

* The man who shot and killed Renisha McBride was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, and a felony firearm charge. [CBS Detroit]

* Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman needs to give up this dumb quest to change New York law to keep his job. [Overlawyered]

* Anti-religious jury tactics in intellectual property cases. Jesus! Or, not Jesus. Or, whatever. [Patently-O]

* Law is complex and nuanced and that’s a good thing. [Popehat]

* A follow-up on a previous item. Election fraud complaint dismissed in the case of Machiavellian Alabama Greeks. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Speaking of the Gettysburg Address, here’s how it would go down with modern political consultants per the great Bob Newhart. Routine after the jump… [YouTube]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: 11.15.13″

The fallout from the Zimmerman trial continues. A lot of digital ink has been spilled (including on this very site) arguing the meaning of the verdict in the context of race and the law.

Beyond the “Grrr! Murderer!” or “Derp! Self-defense!” discussion, the trial offers an opportunity to examine how the sausage of a verdict is made.

Juror B37, one of the illustrious six who acquitted George Zimmerman, had a meteoric rise — and subsequent fall — over the last 24 hours. B37 is the only juror to speak publicly about the verdict, and notwithstanding your feelings about the result, her tale highlights how lawyers consistently misunderstand the psychology of jurors, especially women jurors, and how juries take the carefully crafted jury instructions judges and lawyers spend hours poring over and go their own way…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Rise and Fall of Juror B37 and How Verdicts Are Made”

Last fall, we shared the evidence exam of Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson. His fall exam didn’t seem to require a lot of evidence knowledge.

This semester, Professor Nesson is teaching an “American Jury” class. We received a copy of the spring take-home exam.

How do you ace a class at Harvard? You better play a lot of attention to cases your professor is currently involved in, and you better not fall asleep during the screening of 12 Angry Men….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Harvard Law Exam That Requires You To Apply Lessons From ‘12 Angry Men’”

Why don't jurors listen to directions?

As we heard from Elie last week, a jury is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. The already unpredictable American jury system has gotten even more chaotic over the last several years as the internet has become ubiquitous, at home and in court.

Juror misconduct by internet can lead to mistrials, and it’s becoming increasingly (and unfortunately) more common. Last month the Vermont Supreme Court overturned an unsettling child sexual assault conviction because a juror conducted his own research about the Somali Bantu culture central to the parties in the case.

What a mess…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Child Sexual Assault Conviction Tossed Because of Juror’s ‘Online Cultural Research’”