May 29, 2013
Military.com| by Richard Sisk
WASHINGTON -- President Obama's demands for swift justice against military sex abusers could sway jurors in the lurid case of a Marine major charged with sexual assault against a female midshipman at the Naval Academy after a boozy strip poker party, a defense lawyer warned Tuesday.
The drumbeat of condemnations of sexual assaults in the ranks by Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and bipartisan Congressional leadership had the potential for prejudicing the general court martial of Marine Maj. Mark A. Thompson, said Marine Maj. Joseph Grimm, Thompson's chief defense counsel.
"I'm kind of worried," Grimm said repeatedly in questioning potential jurors as jury selection began in Thompson's trial at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard. "I'm worried that Major Thompson can't get a fair trial."
"I wonder if that's going to affect the ability of the jury in this case to be fair and impartial," Grimm said.
Marine Lt. Col. Charles Hale, who was presiding in the courtroom as the military judge, asked the entire jury pool: "Is there anything about that speech (by Obama) that would affect your ability to be a fair and impartial juror?"
All replied in the negative.
Okay, I can kind of relate to how having, say, a positive relationship or view of a defendant might make a juror admit to being
impartial. “I’ve known the defendant / the defendant was my boyhood hero / I empathize with the circumstances in which he is alleged to have committed the crime. I can’t / won’t sit in judgment.” Or something to that effect.
However – and maybe some readers with jury selection experience can help me out here – how many jurors stand up and say, “Obama’s made me hate the defendant. If you put me on the jury, I’ll vote to hang, draw, and quarter ‘im!” It seems the kind of question that the more it was actually true, the greater the incentive would be to lie about it. In contrast, the jurors sufficiently self-aware of their biases and honorable enough to admit them would be the least of my worries as a defendant.
My guess is that the judge’s question is legal theater. If he actually found merit in Grimm’s suggestion, he wouldn’t have bothered to ask the question. But I don’t really know.