Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Attorney General Abbott to question Jurors

(UPDATE: Jury Selection Recessed until 9am tomorrow) Not only was the showing a surprise, but the AG will conduct juror interviews, showing that perhaps Texas doesn't think this will be a slam dunk or that a sympathetic juror might slip through. Maybe he's just trying to get the trial moved.
The Deseret News/AP - "Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott made a surprise appearance Tuesday at the trial of a polygamist group member, to question potential jurors in the sexual assault case."
Here is the questionnaire, courtesy of the Eldorado Success:
"1) How long have you lived in this county?
2) have you ever served in any branch of the military? If yes, what branch? If yes, were you honorably discharged?
3) Please list the organization to which you belong, in which you participate, or in which you have ever held any office. For example, service clubs, governmental bodies, unions, professional organizations, volunteer activities, educational groups, political parties or political groups.
4) Have you ever served on a grand jury?
5) Have you ever been called as a witness in court or given a statement in any legal proceeding?
6) Do you have any close relatives or friends who are at the present time, or in the past employed by any state or federal agency, district attorney, lawyers, judges or employed in any job within the legal profession. If yes, list the names, relationships and occupations.
7) Have you ever had any legal training?
8) Have you or any close relatives or friends ever been the victim of a crime?
9) Have you ever been a witness to a crime, or ever been questioned by a law enforcement officer about a crime?
10) Have you ever filed a complaint against someone with law enforcement?
11) have you or any close relatives or friends ever been charged with or accused of a crime?
12) Have you or any close relatives or friends ever worked in law enforcem4ent, such as for a police department, county sheriff, highway patrol, or the attorney general?
13) Have you or do you have any close relatives or friends who have ever worked as a probation officer, parole officer or in the prison system?
14) Have you ever participated in 'posting' or 'replying' on any internet sites or 'blogs'? If yes, please list the name or 'handle' you post under and specifically which sites or 'blogs' upon which you post or reply.
15) Have you participated in any activity related to the care, transportation, feeding, housing, or clothing of any members of the FLDS?
16) Have you had any contacts or dealings with any person you understood at the time or now understand to be living at the YFZ Ranch in Schleicher County, Texas?
17) have you had any contacts or dealings with any person you understood at the time or now understand to be a member of the FLDS?
18) Please state your religious preference. State which church or synagogue you attend, if any."
AG Abbott is concerned it would seem, about the bloggosphere. See question 14.

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Carol said...

I really like # 14. With all the comment boards/chat rooms repeating story after story which have been proved untrue or horribly exaggerated, not permitting discussion, using rape in each post/comment. You are as familiar with the vitirol as I am.
# 14 may weed out those who only have gained their information from such sources.
Your opinion please?
This is good.

The Pharisee said...

My guess is that the AG doesn't want YOU on the jury Carol :)

Perhaps he thinks also that some of us live in Schleicher County or are regular contributors to blogs such as this one, or Bill Medvecky's

Riki said...

Interesting about the religion questions, though. Does he mean that only WASPS need apply?

But I think the other questions (whether they know anyone at the Ranch, etc) are more geared to show that the State can't get a fair trial in Schleicher County. Don't know why they'd feel that way (other than there are more bars & stripper clubs in San Angelo for Abbott & his minions to party at), since they got a conviction in the first trial.

The Pharisee said...

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

Odd, nothing in there about the State's "right to a fair trial."

It is the DEFENDANT that has a right to a fair trial, not the state.

That's defined as being in the district where the crime is committed.

The DEFENDANT can waive that right, the state cannot (constitutionally) deprive the DEFENDANT of that right.

Nevertheless it appears they may do so anyway.

There are plenty of willing jurors on the ranch and I am certain that Mr. Keate thinks he can get a fair trial from them.

Ron in Houston said...

Odd, nothing in there about the State's "right to a fair trial."

Like most things constitutional, it's not in the literal text.

If you think about it what does a "fair trial" mean. Is it really fair if everything is stacked in favor of the defendant to such a high degree that the state has no chance at all?

The Pharisee said...

Ron, bravo, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thanks for the reveal.

"...it's not in the literal text..."

Really, thanks.....

Riki said...

Still doesn't answer my question, Ron: How can the State claim they can't get a fair trial when they already got a conviction? "Fair" does not equal "Gets the maximum punishment" just as it also does not equal "Automatically acquitted."

The Pharisee said...

While there is no "Jury of your peers" phrase in the 6th amendment, the idea of an entitlement to be tried in your locality does sort of assume that.

Allen Keate has a right to be tried by people who will come forward and serve as jurors in his home town.

There is no similar right for the state. People need rights, the state does not, the state has power, but we've had this discussion before.

Riki said...

The right to be tried by a "jury of your peers" stems from the Magna Carta, signed in 1215. A very ancient rite, as well as the right to a writ of habeas corpus (from the same document).

I know of no common law basis for the State to claim it can't get a "fair" trial because they don't think a jury will give the defendant the maximum punishment (especially after they already got a conviction--wth are they crying about anyway? That there are no strippers in Eldorado?)

I_hate_bigots said...

I have a good question!!!

Do you belong to a religion which hold negative views of the FLDS/LDS. Has your pastor or minister stated the FLDS/LDS is a cult?

Anyway, what in the world is Abbott doing at this trial? Does he think it's another slam dunk, so he can "participate" and then say he took part in a trial?

Does he not think one day the corruption might be exposed and by participating, he gets to be a part of it?

Is he that blinded by bigoted hatred?

Gee, I hope Lisa gets to share ALL the evidence she has with Abbott!!!

BTW: Do you think the State actually read some of these blogs? I wonder if they read the Rozita/Nanny one?

Ron in Houston said...

I know of no common law basis for the State to claim it can't get a "fair" trial because they don't think a jury will give the defendant the maximum punishment

That's actually a very good argument that I agree with. However, as a practical matter all a juror has to say is that they would consider the full range of punishment. I can consider a lot of things that I'd probably rule out after too much thought.

Riki said...

That's just the thing, Ron. Obviously they were able to seat a jury in Schleicher that considered the range of punishment, as well as guilt or innocence. That's what makes this whining by the State so curious: they GOT a "fair" trial the last time around; what makes them think they won't get one this time?

Just because THEY based their strategy on what they thought the defense would or would not do doesn't mean they can't get a "fair" trial in Schleicher County. Just because it's going to take them longer to get a jury doesn't mean it's not "fair" either. Just because they didn't get the punishment they wanted doesn't mean they didn't get a "fair" trial.

They made the same wrong assumptions that they did in the custody case---they thought the attorneys for the parents & the children would just sit down & keep our mouths shut & do what we were told. The State SHOULD have asked for a change of venue when the Defense teams indicated they weren't going to ask for one, not now after they got a conviction.

Jam Inn said...

I am thinking that AG Abbott is hoping that one of the FLDS members called to serve on the jury attempts to swear in and he can then handle the questioning. This case has been brought by a Grand Jury proclaiming in the indictment that the violation charged is against the peace and dignity of Texas. Who better to protect and serve the people of Texas than their very own, duly elected, Attorney General and his staff, like Erik Nichols.

What's the matter, does the Attorney General's presence bring unwarranted focus and spotlight to these indictments? Maybe the Prosecution's witness list will warrant the AG Abbott's prowess in cross examination(s). Maybe the Attorney General is just positioning himself to be an eye-witness to future criminal proceedings if the RICO or Mann Act(s) are later invoked?

The Pharisee said...

My primary thought Jam, was one of sympathy for Mr. Nichols. I'd hate to have my boss elbow in, particularly when I was doing well already. The state got one quick conviction with Raymond.

Personally, I'd feel like someone was breathing down my neck.

I think the AG is just trying to influence the outcome with his presence. All the jurors on the jury will see that he thinks it's a big deal.

Riki said...

Another take on this: Abbott wants to get his name in the paper because if KBH gets the nod for governor, someone will need to fill the Senate seat.

Jam Inn said...

The basis for concern for the Prosecution is that the normal sentence average of 18.5 years for sexual assault was not reached. With Raymond facing an additional charge his ultimate sentence in time may well exceed 15+ years. Until the violation of the bigamy law is adjudicated, it is tough to view the true measure of this ten year sentence in a complete context. Also, subsequent convictions and sentencing may raise/lower discussion on Raymond's final total sentence time.

The Pharisee said...

That might be Jam, but personally, if I were of the AG's mindset, I'd be wanting 100% conviction rates and 100% prison time with the exception possibly of the misdemeanor charge against the Dr.

Jam Inn said...

Why Modern don't you realize by trial separating the verdicts will mean 100% of Raymond's first offense of 10 years has to be served before the parole board considers any leniency on his subsequent conviction(s). Raymond looks to serve all ten years and then some but his attornies are probably saying five (5) years then parole board will be lenient, except for sexual assault the served term tends to be 90%, so he's looking at 9 years but only if he is exonerated on the bigamy charge.

The Pharisee said...


I have trouble with you on several fronts. One is you speak in two different voices.

The second front I have trouble with you on, and all of those like you on your side, is by now you know exactly where my points of tension are in these cases and you persistently act as if you do not.

First and foremost I think the search was illegal. As a SIDEBAR (please note that a SIDEBAR is not the point) I think the illegal search may also have been contracted for and planned. No amount of confirmation of the search as legal will convince me that it was legal. i think this is a watershed event in American jurisprudence if it is allowed to stand and we all suffer more outrage by allowing it to stand since we are all less safe in our homes.

Second, Polygamy is illegal, but I don't think it should be. I am not so bigoted as to think that Polygamists should be above the law. This attracts me to the FLDS because they practice it. I think their religion is false. Nevertheless they ought to obey the law. This requires that they at least wait until all parties are adults.

Third, I do not think "underage marriage" is a horror. Neither does the state but they hide that fact. Nevertheless, the FLDS ought to obey those laws and have those "underage marriages" performed legally.

It would appear that the state wanted a "shock value" charge with which to assault the FLDS so they chose child abuse as a primary attack method, not bigamy. It would always have been possible for the state to go into YFZ on the probable cause of Bigamy, but they didn't want to do that because of the possibility of eventually legalizing the practice.