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Jury foreman laments a grueling mistrial

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today published an editorial from a Cobb County resident who was a foreman on a traffic accident and personal injury case. The Cobb County state court judge indicated that the trial would likely last three days, but that became longer because the deliberations deadlocked as members remained entrenched in their positions. The judge declared a mistrial.

The foreman reflects: “I feel miserable at my own performance. I failed myself and my fellow jurors by not being able to mediate some sort of agreement. I failed [the judge], who had charged us with reaching a conclusion. I failed the defendant and the plaintiff for the same reasons. And I failed the citizens of the county in that this will now become more of a cost burden on our society at a time when austerity is more needed than ever. My failure means there will likely be another frivolous suit tried, more costs for the court, and higher premiums on our auto insurance.”

Michael Neff’s position:

There is a reason why our court system is requires a unanimous agreement by all jurors – so that one person with strong opinions can’t force a conclusion that is contrary to the evidence. The article stated that at least 3 people on the jury didn’t agree with the foreperson that the case was “frivolous.”

The foreperson wrote that he was concerned about people’s auto insurance. He didn’t mention that he had previously given money to the Trucking Industry’s Political Action Committee. That doesn’t mean he is a bad person. But perhaps he walked into court with some personal opinions and beliefs that made him more likely to see the case from the standpoint of big business. Georgia law forbids the mention of auto insurance in a personal injury trial. So he most likely walked into court with information and beliefs that were pro business.

I hope he was honest when he answered the voir dire questions at the beginning of the trial. The whole reason for jury selection is to identify people whose strong beliefs and experiences may indicate that they should not serve on a particular jury