— photos by Mama G. (1955) —
Looking for a quick treat to share here this evening, we knocked on Robert Ambrogi’s Legal Blog Watch door and he dropped the delicious “Costumed Jurors No Reason for Reversal” (Nov. 19, 2008) into our Beggar’s Bag. It’s about the case of Zabin v. Picciotto, which was handed down yesterday by the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, and was also discussed at The Docket. Bob explains:
“As the complicated civil trial in Massachusetts Superior Court dragged on into late October, the jurors asked the judge if he would allow them to wear costumes on Halloween. After consulting with counsel for all parties and hearing no objection, the judge allowed their request. On appeal, the defendants argued that the presence of jurors in costumes turned the trial into a circus and denied them due process.”
Reviewing the trial decision by Judge Mitchell J. Sikora., who now sits on the Appeals Court, his colleagues agreed with the defendants that “With or without the consent of counsel to the parties, it is regrettable that the trial judge agreed to the jurors’ request. The introduction of Halloween costumes cannot but have detracted from the seriousness and gravity of formal court proceedings.” However,
“However, as to the defendants’ claim of a due process violation, the judge did not merely accommodate the jurors’ request; he consulted with counsel for all parties before doing so, and all counsel agreed. The issue is waived.”
There was even more wackiness at that trial. Per Ambrogi:
“At one point, plaintiffs’ counsel handed out candy to the costumed jurors. Later, a proposed ‘cast list’ was circulated for a Hollywood movie version of the trial. Neither of these provided grounds for reversal, the Appeals Court said. ‘The record reveals no objection to counsel to any party handing out candy to the jurors or any indication that the ‘cast list’ was circulated to the jury’.”
The appeals court also decided that the failure to have the American flag hanging in the courtroom was not grounds for a mistrial.
Clearly, Judge Sikora — who probably never liked being the only guy in the courtroom in a costume — presided over a rather odd trial. In his defense, he might have felt a bit nauseous as the proceedings dragged on (the trial itself lasted 63 days), and he realized he’d still have a pile of motions to contend with once the verdict was rendered.
The case has been around for almost a decade, and the resulting opinion by the Massachusetts high court is an indigestible trick. Just skimming it gave me heartburn. If you have a strong stomach, or just want to be dissuaded from ever going to law school, the f/k/a Gang suggest you try to read the entire opinion in Zabin v. Picciotto (Mass. Ct. of Appeals, Dkt. 07-P-842, decided Nov. 18, 2008).
follow-up (Nov. 23, 2008): Anne Reed came through with links to a couple of prior jury dress-up cases, including a post on the Scooter Libby trial, where 11 of the 12 jurors showed up with special t-shirts on Valentine’s Day, and another that includes a short history of juror dress-alike juries.
No more tricks; just a few new haiku treats from John Stevenson:
of May snowflakes
left and right
around an empty box
wheelchairs & butterflies
my sketch pad
pillow on the floor
I wake up sticky
and worn out
mistaken for a judge –
the vampire bites
.. by dagosan (orig. at MagnaPoetsJF, Oct.26, 2007)
Photo by Cynthia Miner (1992)