It’s stories like this that makes you wonder if our justice system is insane.
John Fanning, a juror in the trial of suspended Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman, brought his home dictionary into the deliberation room Tuesday thinking it was the smart thing to do.
He couldn’t spell the word he wanted to define — ”imminent” — and needed his fellow jurors to help him out, he said.
Little did the group know that looking up the word would lead to a mistrial — and an unexpectedly premature end to Salesman’s highly publicized assault trial.
”I thought it was harmless,” Fanning said. “I really don’t like what happened here. It was a waste of time to me.”
As soon as the dictionary encounter was revealed in court, Salesman’s attorneys moved for a mistrial, and prosecutors agreed: Dictionaries are not allowed in deliberations.
The Miami Herald article only says the defense attorney asked the judge to tell the jury not to use a dictionary. Judge Matthew Destry declined, this after he told the jury he couldn’t define the word and to solely use the legal definitions provided to them. The judge couldn’t supply an answer, the jurors looked for one, and a mistrial results. Jurors are going to use their life experiences and values to render a verdict, and who’s to stop them from doing research when not in the court room.(Unless you sequester every single jury) Why should the public think our courts work properly when something like this happens?
Hat tip- SFDB