The Judiciary and the Jury: Confusion Happens

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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 wherein the crime shall have been committed…

- The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The California trial of Kelly Soo Park for the alleged murder of Juliana Redding recently concluded with the acquittal of Ms. Park. Ms. Park, a 47-year old businesswoman, was charged with first-degree murder after being connected with the death through DNA material found at the Santa Monica apartment of Ms. Redding where she was killed.

Following the trial, the jury in the case deliberated over a week before returning a not guilty verdict on the first degree murder charge. The original verdict was accompanied by a handwritten note from the jury foreman that two jurors were not following court instructions.

  • The judge in the case, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy, asked the foreman to write down what information would assist the jury to better understand the court instructions. A note returned from the foreman asking for clarification of first degree murder as opposed to second degree murder, along with an explanation of first degree murder and additional information.
  • Noting concern that the jury appeared to have reached a not guilty verdict while still unsure of the definition of first and second degree murder, the judge allowed counsel to briefly address the jury as to the charges.
  • Counsel for the defense argued clarification efforts by the judge were coercive and he objected to the efforts of the court as a means to sway the jury that a not guilty verdict was not acceptable to the court. To the contrary, the judge noted she felt addressing the notes received by the jury eliminated ambiguity associated with the first verdict received.
  • Thereafter, the jury returned with a clear verdict of not guilty on the first-degree murder charge and the same on the second-degree murder charge.

A trial was held, an impartial jury deliberated. Due process, though sometimes confusing, freed one woman from the allegation of another woman’s death.

Posted in Appeals, Criminal Defense