Bullying. It’s a problem for our kids. It happens in the school yard, on the buses, and unfortunately, on the Internet. But what happens when there’s a bully in the deliberation room?
That’s exactly what happened Friday in a Nashville, Tennessee courtroom.
The four-week federal trial involved criminal allegations of drug conspiracy, money laundering and possession of firearms. As the panel of twelve jurors were deliberating over the verdict form, it seems that tensions rose and began to impact the group dynamic.
After U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger received not one… not two… but six notes from jurors (including one from the foreman himself), she began to question whether the environment was inhibiting an honest discourse of the issues.
Judge Trauger stated she was “very concerned” that people were “feeling abused in the jury room.” Defense attorneys shared concerns over the right to a fair trial, and questioned whether the bullying could impact the effect of prior verdict answers. Prosecutors felt the disagreements were par for the course and stemmed from one question on the charge. In addition, the government cited case law prohibiting the removal of a juror based on his or her personal views of the case.
The judge ultimately chose to release the juror. She replaced him with an alternate and directed the panel to begin deliberations all over again.
Regardless of what verdict jurors ultimately render, my spidey-sense tells me this case may eventually end up in the higher courts. We’ll have to keep our eye on this one.