Does That Nightstick Mean You Are Happy To See Me?
An Obscene Prosecution

Not Mark Twain's Model of a Juror

Jerry Conner was sentenced to death for rape and murder.  An appellate court ordered that he be re-sentenced.  "Helene Knight, a local newspaper reporter who had extensively covered his first trial, was permitted to serve as a juror in his second sentencing proceeding."  Conner v. Polk, No. 04-23, slip op. at 3 (4th Cir. May 3, 2005).  Worse, Ms. Knight lied was Clintonesque about her knowledge of the case.

[S]he responded negatively to the following question from the trial court during voir dire in the second sentencing proceeding: "And have you heard this case discussed by any person who indicated direct or firsthand knowledge of the facts about the case other than the witnesses that you heard?"

Id. at 11.  Still, the panel allowed Conner's death sentence to stand.

Although a reasonable person could well view Knight’s presence on the jury at Conner’s second trial as troubling (given her extensive coverage and knowledge of the first trial), the underlying facts do not, standing alone, compel the conclusion that she was a biased juror.

Id. at 12.  Huh?  So a juror with extensive knowledge of a case who gave evasive answers to ensure her presence on a jury isn't biased?  I realize that the AEDPA requires deference; but it does not require ignorance.  This case reminds me of the saw that one should keep an open mind, but it shouldn't be kept so open that nothing stays in.