Monday, February 18, 2008

Jensen Trial Continues

Jury deliberations were expected to begin today at the end of closing arguments, but the closing arguments haven't ended. See Jury Deliberations.

In a criminal trial, the prosecution makes its initial closing argument, then the defense makes its closing argument, and then the prosecution gets the last word. That "last word" took more time than the judge anticipated, a fact he pointed out when commenting on his expectation to "send the trial to the jury" today.

At 6:20 p.m. tonight, the judge polled the jury, not for their verdict in Mr. Jensen's trial, but rather for the time that they wanted to start the trial tomorrow - they voted for 8:30 AM - and then he recessed the trial and emphasized his intent to "charge the jury" tomorrow and refrain from holding the jurors any longer than necessary. The defense agreed, and added that they were also interested in not having Mr. Jensen's life unnecessarily put on hold any longer.

A pool of 19 jurors were selected for the Jensen trial. Twelve jurors for the jury, and 7 additional jurors (called alternates) if needed. Alternate jurors are selected for very serious felony trials to prevent a mistrial in case one or more jurors is unable to serve.

The court ordered the defense and prosecuting attorneys to report at 8:15 a.m. tomorrow morning to answer the question, "How many jurors should be dismissed before deliberations begin?" The court posed that question to the attorneys yesterday, with the anticipation that the court would dismiss those alternates today.

So, why are closing arguments taking so long? The prosecuting attorney is giving his rebuttals to the defense's closing arguments, and to that end has prepared a list of the testimony and evidence in the state's case. For each item on the list, he is summarizing the state's case, as well as hypothesizing other possible reasons for past activities and evidence in the trial, a summation technique that met with a few objections from the defense and a motion for a mistrial.

The court denied the defense's motion for a mistrial.

The court indicated that the prosecuting attorney is expected to be done with his closing arguments by noon tomorrow, with deliberations beginning as soon as the jury instructions are done.