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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 11 Apr 2014

-Judges Okay Juror Intent on Convicting before Hearing Evidence


Jury BoxJudge Seated Juror Who Declared Defendant Guilty Before Trial

Jose Felipe Velasco insists Orange County Judge David A. Hoffer cheated him out of a fair trial by placing a juror on the supposedly neutral citizen’s panel after she repeatedly declared the defendant guilty before hearing any evidence.

Velasco, who is serving a prison term of 123 years to life after that panelist–identified as Juror 112 in court documents–helped convict him in 2009 of committing multiple sex crimes against underage girls.

According to the court transcript, Juror 112 indicated THREE TIMES that she would vote Guilty, even without having heard any evidence, even if the government couldn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and even if she believed the alleged victim was outright lying. It was only after being repeatedly questioned and cajoled that Juror 112 agreed she would “try” to be fair. Nonetheless, she was seated on the jury, over the objections of the defense.

Neither U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia G. Rosenberg, nor U.S. District Court Judge J. Spencer Letts saw anything wrong with this, and Velasco’s appeal has so far been denied. This lack of concern on the part of high-ranking judges is disturbing on many levels. Three judges have now casually discarded one of the fundamental principles of our legal system, grounded in centuries of American and English jurisprudence. The presumption of innocence applies even to those accused of heinous crimes such as Velasco because even perfectly innocent people may be maliciously or mistakenly accused. And there is no reason to believe this laxity in standards for what constitutes an “impartial” jury is reserved only for those who are accused of the most serious crimes. Any one could be maliciously charged or prosecuted by someone with an axe to grind under catch-all laws such as “disturbing the peace” or “interfering with an officer” and others, and have a juror seated with a strong desire to convict based solely on accusation.

That not just one, not just two, but THREE judges have given a pass to this clear violation of due process and the right to a fair trial by jury illustrates yet again how tilted the playing field in the courtroom has become. It is tilted grossly in favor of conviction.