Re the Manafort trial, a note about jury deliberations

As someone who’s been on several juries, I may have a bit of insight about the way jurors deliberate and, ergo, what the jurors’ note to Judge Ellis — suggesting the jury may be deadlocked on one charge (there are 18) –might mean.

The jury’s note to Judge Ellis asked: “If we cannot come to a consensus on a single count, how should we fill out the jury verdict sheet for that count, and what does that mean for the final verdict?”

The jury said it would “need another form, please.”

When jurors first get into the jury room, they elect a foreman. Who may or may not see his position as King of the Jury, which can be deeply annoying but we all get over it.

I’d think the initial move from a foreman and the jury would be to hold a quick vote on paper or even by raised hands for each of the charges. It’s a way to separate what could be easy decisions from a more complicated debate on other charges.

So let’s say that first vote showed that all twelve jurors would support a guilty verdict on several of those charges. That decision removes those charges from deliberations, at least at that time. (Jurors can change their minds later, but probably won’t.)

If I were a (non-regally-minded) foreman, I would have written down the votes on each charge and would now go to the ones that had the most guilty votes, and deliberate on those, and then, having determined a guilty or not-guilty vote on those, go on to the charges on which the jury was more evenly divided.

My guess is that if the jury wants the judge to explain how they should handle one charge on which they remain divided, they’ve already determined the other seventeen charges. So, again my guess, I’d think they’ll come in with a verdict by late today or tomorrow.

Funniest thing about jury deliberations: when I worked for lawyers who tried cases, I came to realize they did not really know about juries. They’d take rational guesses about the verdict — and would usually be right — but how the jurors worked out the verdict, well, the lawyers did not understand the process.

Because — at that time, at least, before New York State Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Kaye changed the rules for potential jurors — lawyers were never selected as jurors and thus had no experience in the jury room.

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