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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Text Messaging and Jurors

There are plenty of issues in this articles, but the primary question to think about is to what extent the "do not discuss this case with others or amongst yourselves" during the course of a trial is totally actually adhered to and are cell phones with text messaging capabilities going to cause unforeseen problems in the years ahead -- during actual deliberations, for example,1,1326544.story?coll=chi-news-hed
Jurors stay on Harris panel
Judge won't remove 2 who text-messaged in botched arrest case

By Carlos Sadovi, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter Gary Washburn contributed to this report

September 13, 2005

Two jurors who admitted text-messaging each other will be allowed to continue serving in the civil trial in which a family is suing Chicago police over an 8-year-old boy's arrest for murder, a civil court judge ruled Monday.

Judge Randye Kogan reaffirmed her ruling of last Thursday that the male and female jurors could remain on the panel in the wrongful arrest suit stemming from a police investigation into the 1998 slaying of 11-year-old Ryan Harris.

Kogan's latest ruling came after an anonymous letter last week singled them out for allegedly using their cellular phones to text-message each other. Last week she decided to keep the two on the jury while Cook County sheriff's investigators scoured their cell phones to ensure they did not discuss the case.

Kogan noted Monday for the record that the city disagreed with her rulings and offered the city a chance to file a written brief objecting to the decision.

Michael Sheehan, a lawyer for the city, said the city believes the jurors should be removed, but attorneys are looking into the law before deciding whether to issue a written brief. Monday's court hearing was markedly tamer than Friday's, when the city's request to have Kogan reconsider her decision resulted in a lawyer from each side briefly thrown out of court.

Andre Grant, a lawyer for the boy, asked Kogan to get law officials involved in finding the author of the letter. Grant suggested in court Friday that police may have been behind the anonymous letter. Lawyers for the city reacted sharply.

"I request that the court do something to determine the source and authenticity of the letter we read last week. It says that it came from a juror, yet all have denied it," Grant said Monday. "We may have a juror that is dishonest. We have to determine the source of the letter. Otherwise, our jury is tainted."

Kogan said she would take Grant's request under consideration.

Jury selection in the case began on Aug. 1 and testimony began on Aug. 9, seven years to the day that the 8-year-old and a 7-year-old boy were arrested for Ryan Harris' 1998 slaying.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that removing the jurors would disrupt the racial balance of the jury. There are four African-Americans, four Hispanics and four whites on the jury.

The male juror in question is African-American and the woman is Hispanic. Two of the alternate jurors who would take their places are white.

City lawyers last week argued the letter was cause to have both jurors removed because they have made up their minds before the trial has ended.

"We have some jurors who feel it necessary to speak about the case, the young lady and young man text message each other in the [jury] room after each break and make remarks such as, `He's guilty,' or, `Explain what the lawyer meant by ...' [They] need to stop talking so much," the letter read.

After the jury was brought into court Monday, Kogan reminded them not to use cell phones or send text messages while sitting in the jury box. They can use their phones outside court, she said, but only for private conversations and not to discuss the case.

Last week, Kogan said she did not find anything related to the case on their phones after making a cursory review but asked the sheriff's office to put a rush on her request for text-messaging records.

The trial is in its sixth week. The family of the 8-year-old, now 15, is suing the city, retired Chicago police Detective James Cassidy and Detective Allen Nathaniel over the child's August 1998 arrest.

Murder charges against the boy and a friend were dismissed after forensic tests determined that the girl's underwear had semen on it that could not have come from boys so young. Also on Monday, the City Council's Finance Committee discussed settling the case. The committee took no action as Ald. Edward Burke (14th), committee chairman, called for more consideration of the matter before the full City Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

Burke reminded the committee that an assistant corporation counsel who spoke last January on behalf of a $2 million settlement in the case of the 7-year-old boy said a jury award could have resulted in a payout by the city of as much as $50 million.

"You don't know what the jury is going to do here," said Ald. Ed Smith (28th). "I think the City Council would be wise to find a way to settle this case."


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