Minneapolis Man Seeks New Trial Because Juror Referred To Him In Deliberations As A “Banger From The Hood”

There is an interesting hearing to be held in Minneapolis where a court will decide whether a new trial is warranted for Michael Smith, who has a record of offenses including fourth-degree assault convictions in 2005 and 2006.  He is challenging his conviction four years ago after two jurors have stated that their votes were swayed by another juror calling him a “banger from the hood.”  While statements of prosecutors are often the basis for post-conviction appeals, this is a statement from other jurors in deliberations that are rarely the subject of such detailed review.

Smith was given 15 years without parole under the Armed Career Criminal Act. It added that he was convicted of third-degree murder in 2001, and he also served two prison stints from a pair of fourth-degree assault convictions in 2005 and 2006.

The foreman told the court that a juror stated  “Look, he is a black person with a previous criminal record living in North Minneapolis. You know he’s just a banger from the hood, so he’s got to be guilty.”

The foreman said that he remained bothered over the verdict and decided to come forward to allege that racism impacted the jury.  There are cases where racism in the jury room has been alleged. However, it is relatively rare for the discussion between jurors to be the basis for a new trial.  This type of comment is not necessarily unique and, standing alone, would not be viewed by many courts as sufficient basis for a new trial.

What do you think?

42 thoughts on “Minneapolis Man Seeks New Trial Because Juror Referred To Him In Deliberations As A “Banger From The Hood””

  1. I grew up in Minneapolis (South Side) but have been gone long enough to not be totally familiar with the current situation. I also had no involvement with the Justice system there, except for a traffic violation which led to nothing. I have a couple of thoughts:
    1.It would have been nice if the foreman said something before the verdict. There are mechanisms to deal with biased jurors before the verdict, far fewer after the fact.
    2. It seemed the juror has two biases, one regarding someone he views as “a banger” which isn’t that troubling to me. He may have formed an opinion based on the evidence and whatever was known about the defendant and described him the way he felt was most accurate in his mind. It’s the part about the North Side which bothers me. If the same person had been from Edina, Richfield or St. Louis Park would he then no longer be a banger but a misguided youth? Would he be more likely to find anyone from the North Side guilty because of where they resided as opposed to consideration of the facts?

    As far as resolution, I don’t know what could be legally done. It may be that the judge or some appellate body decides finds the situation is no harm/no foul and that the preponderance of the evidence supports the guilty verdict and I’d be fine with that. I think there should be a review but am not predisposed as to what action might be reasonably taken.

  2. Was he or was he not a banger from the hood. Better to stick to Standard American English and not use PCRap. or Californicated eight word Duuhlingual.

  3. Well, FWIW, it appears that prior convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) do not have to proven to the jury:

    Prior Conviction Exception Under Almendarez-Torres

    The narrow “prior conviction” exception from the general rule that all facts going to punishment must be found by a jury is based on assumptions regarding the reliability and fairness of the procedures available to the defendant at the time his or her prior convictions were entered.9 The U.S. Supreme Court first addressed sentence enhancement based upon recidivism as a jury trial issue in Almendarez-Torres v. United States,10 where, in a 5-4 decision, it held that a judge, rather than a jury, may decide the fact of a defendant’s prior conviction for purposes of determining whether a sentence should be imposed in excess of the statutory maximum.11

    The Court set forth three principal reasons for reaching its conclusion. First, recidivism has been a traditional basis for a sentencing court’s increase in an offender’s sentence.12 Second, recidivism should be treated differently from other sentencing enhancement factors because “the introduction of evidence of a defendant’s prior crimes risks significant prejudice.”13 Third, although a factor may trigger an increase in the maximum permissive sentence, as opposed to an increase in the mandatory minimum sentence as seen in McMillan v. Pennsylvania,14 that factor should not automatically require a greater burden of proof, as it “does not systematically, or normally, work to the disadvantage of a criminal defendant.”15 As such, the Court held that the factor of recidivism need not be included in the indictment, nor proved beyond a reasonable doubt, even if that factor increases the criminal sentence beyond the prescribed statutory maximum.16

    There is doubt concerning the continued viability of Almendarez-Torres. The four Almendarez-Torres dissenters and Justice Thomas have all expressed belief that Almendarez-Torres was decided in error. Justice Thomas, the only member of the Almendarez-Torres majority to join the Apprendi majority, renounced his vote with the majority in Almendarez-Torres and declared that the decision was in error.17 Moreover, the Court’s decision in Shepard v. United States18 appears to further question the continued viability of Almendarez-Torres.

    In Shepard, the Court addressed whether a sentencing court, acting pursuant to the ACCA, can examine police reports or complaints to determine whether a prior guilty plea to burglary counts as a prior conviction of a “violent felony.”19 In reading the “prior conviction” exception narrowly, the Court concluded that the judicial inquiry under the ACCA, as to whether a guilty plea to burglary is a “violent felony,” “is limited to the terms of the charging document, the terms of a plea agreement or transcript of colloquy between judge and defendant in which the factual basis for the plea was confirmed by the defendant, or some comparable judicial record of this information.”20 It would appear that requiring that recidivism in the Shepard context be proved beyond a reasonable doubt calls into question the distinction between “traditional sentencing factors” such as recidivism and “elements of the offense.” However, it should be noted that Shepard was decided on statutory grounds, invoking the doctrine of avoiding constitutional doubt.

    https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/RS22610.html

    There are some better analyses out there, but they are in PDF, and I can’t copy and paste them easily. Sooo, it looks like all the jury may have heard is the facts of the possession of the shotgun. If I am wrong, then somebody please let me know! Thanks!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Squeeky – for all we know, the prosecutor called him a “banger from the ‘hood” in summation.

  4. Since Fish Wings asked for me, here I am! Late 4 Dinner gave a good link to what the banger was tried for, and it was a Federal crime for possessing a sawed off shotgun while a career criminal. Which status requires 3 previous convictions for violence.

    What I wonder is, does the jury get to know what the criminal history is during the trial??? Or, is it like a bifurcated trial where the jury only hears the evidence related to the actual current possession of the sawed off shotgun??? Then if he is found guilty, the judge imposes the sentence for being a career criminal in possession.

    Because if the jury knows the full reason why they are there, then saying that Michael Smith is a banger is kind of DUH! What are we for in the first place??? Uh,because he is a career criminal. . . in possession of a sawed off shotgun.

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  5. The bigger picture and question to ask is why are not Jury discussions secret not subject to review per law with penalties for those who reveal such info. juror misconduct should be reported and dealt with Prior to the verdict or NOTat all.

  6. Hennepin County-because I’m assuming this is a county case, or any courts within the Greater Twin Cities are akin to kangoo courts.

    This Michael Smith will get a new trial meanwhile someone will be convicted and sent to jail over jaywalking.

    I learned long ago that the court systems here are completely upside down. I was stabbed by knife from a criminal career perp and he walked after a month jail. It made me libertarian. I don’t trust government.

    1. Mkat – I know that Hennipen Co. is very liberal because I had very conservative relatives who used to live there and their children are mostly liberals now. MN has always been a strange state to run a state-wide campaign in since they have a legitimate 3rd party that has to be mollified.

      1. My good friend Michael Orville Freeman is the Hennepin County Attorney. .He is a moderate democrat. He is fair. I worked with him years ago. What is the third party?

        1. swm – I just remember it came up when people were running for Senate from MN. It is tied to the farming communities, I think, but that is a guess, something like the old Grange.

          1. Yes, but they merged into one party called the Democratic Farm Labor Party. There is not a regular democratic party just that one.

            1. swm – thanks for looking it up. I am sure it is more productive to have combined it. I think since at least LBJ they have not had competing candidates.

  7. I would say put the guy away for life – he had enough chances already. What is the point of ever letting him out. He absolutely qualifies as a “banger from the hood.”

  8. I thought that was the response you give at jury selection to get out of the trial. It would be interesting to know if the juror that made this statement lied about having any preconceived opinions regarding defendants such as Smith.

  9. Turley said, “Smith was given 15 years without parole under the Armed Career Criminal Act. He is challenging his conviction four years ago . . . ”

    Turley neglected to say what crime Michael Smith was convicted of in 2013. One might presume that it was a crime involving a weapon, given Turley’s mention of the Armed Career Criminal Act. But one can never be sure with Turley. Perhaps it doesn’t make any difference with respect to the legal challenge seeking a new trial what crime Smith was convicted of in 2013. But one still can never be sure with Turley.

      1. So, the article linked above says that thirty-one year old Michael Allen Smith was convicted of possession of a sawed-off shotgun in December of 2012 and sentenced to 180 months because his previous criminal record made it illegal for Smith to possess firearms and because his prior convictions were for violent offenses. Now does any of that make a difference in whether Smith should get a new trial?

        1. Would any of the following from the article linked above make a difference in whether Smith should be granted a new trial:

          “This case was the result of an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Minneapolis Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Newberry.

          The case was charged under Project Exile Minneapolis. That law enforcement initiative was launched on July 22, 2010, as part of a city-wide effort to reduce gun violence. Through Project Exile, the Minneapolis Police Department and the ATF work together to apprehend serial criminals for violations of gun laws. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office then teams up with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine where those offenders will most effectively be prosecuted – state or federal court. Those determinations are based on the offenders’ criminal histories and current charges, among other factors. To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has brought charges against almost two dozen serious habitual criminals through Project Exile Minneapolis.”

          I think Turley glossed over a few details on Smith’s legal challenge.

          1. JT, has a base to support him and he knows it. Wait till the resident racist sees this post. Where are you “girl reporter” ?

            1. We have two girl reporters? I’m aware of one female or lady reporter. Which one of the girls whom I assume are PC were you referring to too much when they catch your donkey. Can’t have it both ways fish breath… Your either a Progressively Regressive Liberal Socialist or a Former Democrat who did not practice Democratic Principles in this Republic system of government Can’t have it both ways much less three ways. Your programmer must have got a pay cut from Soros.

  10. “Look, he is a black person with a previous criminal record living in North Minneapolis. You know he’s just a banger from the hood, so he’s got to be guilty.”

    A new trial is warranted where the actual evidence is considered, not the color of his skin or where he lives..

    1. bettykath – you are assuming the foreman swayed the entire jury. There is nothing to prove that. As I said before you would have to poll the jury in secret to learn whether they were swayed by the foreman.

      1. The foreman reported the statement; he didn’t make it. And influence is irrelevant — the juror who made the statement is very likely to have voted based on impermissible criteria, spoiling the verdict.

    2. Was he or was he not a prior triple convicted telon? Did he or did he not have in his possession a sawed off shotgun or weapon of any kind. Two Yes answers equals three strikes your out.To uphold that charge a jury MUST be given all the facts pertaining to the elements of the charge. Prior convictions may NOT be hidden or ignored. Whoever did that or asked for that is automatically an accessory.

    1. I hail from up north Michigan but won’t tell da gun totin T rumpers on this blog what hood I live in these days. They might show up with a gun like that dude did at dat pizza joint in da district.

  11. Look JT. The first sentence the guy said pumped up the second sentence and was worse.
    “Look, he is a black person with a previous criminal record living in North Minneapolis. You know he’s just a banger from the hood, so he’s got to be guilty.”

  12. re: “The foreman told the court that a juror stated ‘Look, he is a black person with a previous criminal record living in North Minneapolis. You know he’s just a banger from the hood, so he’s got to be guilty.'”:

    he may be “a banger from the hood” but at issue seems to be the inference and then assertion that being “a banger from the hood” automatically means one is guilty. that seems to be problematic in terms of fairness.
    Give the “banger from the hood” another trial.

      1. You should move to a place where that’s how the law works, such as Pakistan or North Korea, where you will undoubtedly be happier.

  13. On several occasions, I’ve had to sit on juries in Oakland, CA that involved “bangers from the hood”–Black, Hispanic, Asian and White bangers. Racist? No. Classist? Maybe. All the jurors knew what they were dealing with. No one would be foolish enough to say it out loud in such an obvious manner.

  14. The real question is “Is he a banger from the ‘hood?” And was the foreman right? That is not racism. Now I appreciate the foreman coming forward to out himself but you would have to poll the jury to see if it affected them. I think it is pretend racism and remorse. He really wasn’t sure he was guilty, to begin with, but found a reason which he articulated to the jury.

    I was on a jury once where a woman voted guilty because she wanted to go home to see her husband. We ended with a hung jury and she didn’t get to see her husband. 🙁

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