Monday, October 19, 2009
Bench trial vs. jury trial: The mash-up
What's a district judge to do when one defendant wants a jury trial and the other defendants want a bench trial as to drug quantities only? Run them simultaneously, with all defendants present; the jury not being told that the other defendants had pleaded guilty and sought a bench trial as to quantity only; the bench trial defendants' lawyers cross-examining quantity witnesses; and the verdict form relating to the jury trial defendant only. Although the Eleventh Circuit (Edmonson, Birch, and district judge Hodges) was not prepared to endorse this tactic, it found no reversible error especially in the absence of prejudice to the defendants. Check out the opinion at United States v. Chavez, No. 08-12683 (Oct. 16, 2009).