(Part 1 of this article was published in the Feb. 2 edition.)
Previously, the Times reported on the jury selection process, specifically citing the case People v George Huffman III from January.
Judge F. Kay Behm of the 7th Circuit Court presided, with defense attorney Nicholas Robinson and Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Janetsky. It was a criminal sexual conduct case in which Huffman was found guilty of one of the two counts. Huffman was sentenced to three to 20 years in prison.
This story is a continuation of the jury experience story.
After jury selection (voir dire), the judge administers an oath to be impartial jurors. Before the trial begins, Robinson said many instructions are read to the jury. He said several are generic and used for every jury. These include themes of burden of proof, trial procedure, function of courts and jury and what evidence actually is.
Other important themes are presumption of innocence and what the test of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is.
They’re directed to only consider evidence presented to them. He said some juries are allowed to take notes, others are not.
Jurors are directed to not consider potential penalties for the defendant.
During the trial
During trial, the jury is the true “finder of facts,” Robinson said. They listen to evidence and make decisions on what’s presented, and reach a conclusion, whether guilty or not guilty and on what charges.
The trial starts with opening statements, always from the prosecuting attorney, and sometimes the defense as well. Robinson said this is a “roadmap” of each side’s case.
Because the prosecutor has the burden of proof, they call witnesses first. Janetsky handled direct examination of her witnesses, which included members of the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST). She asked
open-ended questions to attempt to establish Huffman’s guilt.
After she was done, Robinson was able to cross examine Huffman, trying to shoot holes in the prosecution’s case. After this, Janetsky could redirect, meaning she asks more questions of her witness to try to realign her witness with their case and undo some damage from Robinson’s questions if possible.
Robinson didn’t call any of his own witnesses, but the same process would follow if he did.
Jurors also were allowed to ask questions. “There were a lot of astute questions asked by the jurors,” Robinson said.
Jurors when hearing evidence also have to determine what is credible.
After this, there are closing arguments from both sides. Counsel sought to explain why their case should find the defendant guilty or not guilty, depending on their own goal.
At this point, two of the 14 jurors are selected at random to be dismissed as alternates. The remaining 12 then leave for deliberations after more instructions from the judge.
Juror number two, 33, from Flint, chose to withhold his name. “Deliberations were a bit frustrating at times,” the juror said. “Some jurors refused to acknowledge the facts of the case and we went back and forth discussing the details of the case.”
To the juror it was clear the defendant was guilty on multiple counts. “… in the end, we agreed that (Huffman) simply knew ‘Eva’ (GHOST officer posing as child online) was 14 and that he didn’t make an effort to verify this.”
In a criminal case, verdicts must be unanimous. After 14 hours of deliberation, they found Huffman guilty on one of the two charges.
This juror said he was treated very well by Behm, who provided levity in the tense emotional moments.
Jurors debriefed with attorneys about the process. Behm provided extra information about Huffman, which made the juror feel better about the “guilty” verdict.
Robinson said jurors tend to be glad they participated. “It’s almost unanimous that people actually were glad to be part of the process,” he said. “It surprises me because of how unanimous it usually is.”
Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney David Leyton said whether a juror votes against the state, he appreciates when they serve.