Another member of the Long Island jury that found John White guilty of manslaughter in Long Island has emerged to claim coercion or pressure in reaching the verdict. Previously, a white juror in a racially controversial murder case has gone public with a claim that he felt pressured by the judge and fellow jurors to convict John White, a black man found guily of killing a white teen, Daniel Cicciaro. It is a claim that is likely to produce more of a political and social response than a legal response. Instead, the defense is likely to challenge the judge’s instructions in the case.
Some glimpses into the jury room of the White case have been revealed, showing raw and immaterial statements by jurors. However, this is nothing new for criminal cases. Jurors are given great latitude in their discussions and courts are loathe to allow litigation over the content of those deliberations.
If the juror, Francois Larche, yielded to such pressure he failed to uphold his oath and will have little recourse in trying to take back his vote.
In reaching it verdict, jury rejected the claim of White that he was acting in self-defense when he shot the teen in the face. White could receive as much as 15 years for the crime after the jury came in with a guilty verdict after four days of deliberation. In his testimony, White raised the racial fears that he experienced growing up and hearing about how the Kl Klux Klan burned his grandfather’s home. He said that the teens had followed his son home from a party and that his son told him that they were shouting racial epithets. White said that he was pointed the gun at Cicciaro when it went off accidentally. The confrontation between the boys began with an internet hoax where a MySpace entry said White son, Aaron, wanted to rape a neighborhood girl.
Larche claims that he and another juror changed their votes after enduring “a lot of psychological tactics” from fellow jurors during an unusual weekend session ordered by the judge over jurors’ protests. He cited both pressure from the judge and a 12-hour session as wearing him down.
It is not uncommon for jurors to experience such morning after regrets. In some cases, true appealable issues can arise when there is evidence of tampering with or influencing of jurors. However, the claim by Larche that he got “heat” from jurors is not grounds for such a challenge.
After the jury found itself deadlocked the Friday before Christmas, the judge issued a standard instruction for the jurors to come to a verdict. They went back and reached a guilty verdict by the next day.
Today, the Post reveals the words of another juror that provide a glimpse into the heated debate:
“If we let him free, Mr. Cicciaro [Sr.] will kill John White himself,” the juror shouted, according to another juror, who asked not to be identified.
As his aghast peers fell silent, the male juror paused for 15 seconds, then said, “If it was my son, I would do the same.”
At another point he added, “If there is a hung jury, I will go over to Daniel Cicciaro [Sr.] and apologize to him,” according to another juror.
The lawyers are suggesting that Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn erred when she sent the jurors back without telling them that they would not be kept over Christmas Eve. One lawyer noted “she asked them, ‘Please give me a list of your Sunday religious obligations for purposes of handling the schedule.’ That indicated to them they were going to be kept there on Sunday, the day before Christmas Eve.”
Kahn could have down a better job on this point, but it does not seem enough to produce a reversal. One case that is being cited in support of a defense motion is that of Jose Fong, a suspected New York drug dealer. Fong received a new trial recently after a federal court ruled that a state trial judge erred when he told jurors that they had to reach a unanimous decision and would be kept there until they did.
The White case, thus far, does not show any fatal flaw — certainly not based on the statements of the jurors themselves.
Now Al Sharpton, who is facing his own potential criminal charges as discussed here, has appeared to lead protests in favor of White. In the meantime, White’s lawyer’s are trying to rally homeowners around the home defense angle in the case.
White’s lawyers note that white homeowners in Long Island support of White: Given that home invasion robberies are up, lawyer Marie Michel said, “White homeowners are very concerned about this case. They feel very vulnerable. They wonder what this case means for them as property owners.”
Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn never told jurors in open court that they would be kept through Christmas for deliberations, but White attorney Frederick Brewington said she never promised they wouldn’t remain there through the holiday, either.
On Saturday, “she asked them, ‘Please give me a list of your Sunday religious obligations for purposes of handling the schedule.’ That indicated to them they were going to be kept there on Sunday, the day before Christmas Eve,” Brewington said Wednesday. “They were in the dark as to what to expect.”
The White case does not make for an easy application of the castle doctrine. Castle doctrine laws or Make my day laws are designed to get rid of the duty to retreat in such circumstances, though in this case there was no need to retreat rather than a need not to intervene in deference to the police.
The common law does not view any property worth killing over — including a criminal’s life. Thus, a homeowner would have to show self-defense. This privilege allows the use of lethal force so long as it is commensurate and contemporaneous. Thus, you can not escalate a level of violence (though juries cut defendants a great deal of slack on this question) and you cannot retaliate later against a suspect. For a discussion on these laws, click here
White was responsible for the escalation of the danger by confronting the youths outside of his house with a gun and giving his son a gun. The youths were unarmed and did not break into his home. He then shot a kid in the face. While the youths appear to have used racial epithets, White was the one who introduced the lethal element to the scene. To answer counsel’s question, what homeowners can expect is that they will not be charged for acts of self-defense in their home. They can also expect to lose this protection if they are the ones seeking a confrontation and escalating the violence. White is hardly the best choice for the image of a home protector.