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Opening Arguments

The jury is out

A jury in Wabash found Scott Pattison guilty of sffocating his wife Lisa with a barbell on their weight bench. Now his lawyer, in a real stretch, is seeking to have a mistrial declared:

According to the motion, while the jury was deliberating they ran different tests on the weight bench. At one point two female jurors, who presumably weighed less that Lisa, got on the bench to see if there was any way not to get from underneath.

The motion states that the tests performed should be considered new evidence, and therefore the jury should not have been allowed to perform them. While the bench had been used as evidence, there had been no attempt to recreate how Lisa died.

[. . .]

The jury had been told during the trial they would be able to examine the weight bench during the deliberation process.

The lawyer said the test was "prejudicial" because it persuaded three jurors to change their verdict from not guilty to guilty. Sounds pretty resourceful to me -- like the test Henry Fonda did for fellow jurors in "12 Angry Men" in which he proved that a witness who testified could not have made it to a certain window in time to see what he claimed to have seen.

But courts are touchy about that sort of thing. According to Indiana Jury Rule 20 (b), jurors aren't supposed to use computers, cell phones, other electronic communication devices or "any other method" to conduct their own research, investigate the case or gain any special knowledge or even "gather information about the issues in the case." With advances in technology, such instances are showing up more frequently:

As I've noted before, that's misconduct because jurors are only supposed to decide a case based on the evidence that was properly admitted at trial. When jurors go outside that evidence, and conduct their own investigations, that taints the process . . . 


William Larsen
Fri, 12/03/2010 - 3:57pm

Leo I saw this as well last night. I had recorded it and when it showed the weight set paused it. It clearly showed a 10 lb weight next to a 15 lb weight. With an identical set on both sides, the total weight was 50 lbs not including the bar. There may be some out there who know how much the bar weights, but I would guess it is no more than 10 lbs. This brings the total to 60 lbs. When I had use of both arms, I could bench press quite a bit. I know on my swim team that the women were pressing well over 70 lbs.

The two smallest ladies attempted to press this weight. Was it their first time? Were the really tiny, older women? I congratulate them on their resourcefulness, but what one person can lift may not be what others can lift.

Was the victim an experienced weight lifter compared to the two small women? What the jury did was introduced a non scientific investigation,though I like the concept.