[Marxism] My cousin Vinny

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Wed Aug 3 07:39:14 MDT 2005

The circumstances of this case, where the charge is shoplifting are 
similar to the setup of one of the funniest comedies in the last 20 
years: My Cousin Vinny. But here it goes to the jury, which first votes 
to convict, then is caught up when polled--one of the jurors says not 
guilty--only to end with a not guilty decision.

Brian Shannon

Jury Turnabout 'Unique,' Say Courtroom Observers
John Caher, New York Law Journal, 08-03-2005

When a Columbia County, N.Y., jury last week reported it had reached a 
verdict in a robbery case, and then reported that the verdict was 
guilty, defense lawyer Robert W. Linville figured it was all over for 
his client. But as every criminal defense lawyer is taught to do, 
Linville requested a poll of the jurors in open court -- an exercise 
usually akin to rubbing salt in an open wound.

Juror No. 1 confirmed his verdict was guilty, but then Juror No. 2 
shocked everyone in the courtroom by reporting that guilty was not her 
verdict. "Everybody was stunned," said Linville, an assistant public 
defender in Columbia County. "It blew out the verdict. They'd already 
convicted the guy on count one, and we hadn't even gotten to count 

The attorneys and Columbia County Judge Paul Czajka, with a combination 
of well over 50 years of legal experience behind them, were baffled. 
None had ever seen such a circumstance, which sent them scurrying to 
the law books to figure out what to do next. The Criminal Procedure Law 
provided guidance, and the jurors were sent back for further 
deliberations and, hopefully, clarification of their verdict.

Several hours later, the jury sent a note asking for readbacks -- there 
were only two prosecution witnesses and none for the defense -- and a 
definition of reasonable doubt. The jury also confided the count was 
now nine for acquittal, two for conviction and one still undecided. 
Czajka provided the information and definition requested, and sent the 
jury back to the deliberation room.

After two more hours, the jury again reported it had a unanimous 
verdict. This time, it was 12-0 for acquittal. Assistant District 
Attorney David M. Costanzo then asked for a poll of the jurors, and the 
verdict stood this time. Frederick Douglas Credle, a predicate felon 
looking at seven years in prison, walked out of court a free man.

"We talked to the jury afterward and expressed our disbelief," Linville 
said. "Juror No. 2, in answer to the question as to how they convicted 
in the first place, said it was out of 'frustration,' whatever that 
could mean. Other jurors chimed in and said they had trouble with the 
level of proof. They said it was real thin."

"I've never seen anything like this before," said Costanzo, the 
prosecutor. "It is unique."
The case was basically a shoplifting incident where the perpetrator 
allegedly grabbed some DVDs, video games and other items and bolted 
from the store in Greenport, N.Y.  Credle, 37, was charged with a 
felony robbery count and a misdemeanor of petit larceny, even though no 
goods were recovered, let alone linked directly to him. The main proof 
was that Credle was in the store -- there was no dispute about that -- 
and he left in a big hurry.

People v. Credle remains a topic of wonder in Columbia County legal 
circles, leading to commentary and observations not only in the 
courthouse but on the Internet as well. "How does one explain this?" 
asks Spencertown, N.Y., defense attorney David Seth Michaels in a 
digital missive to several other attorneys in the region. "You might 
conclude that the jury was completely irresponsible and that it was 
only when one of the members (juror number 2) was conscience stricken, 
that she forced the others to pay attention. Or you might conclude that 
it was a power struggle and that the jurors didn't care what they 
decided as long as they got to go home quickly. Or you might have some 
other equally good theory."

In an interview, Michaels said he has never seen a case where a polling 
of the jury yielded a different result than the one initially reported. 
"I've never heard of anything like that before," he said. "It turned 
all the way around from guilty to not guilty in a matter of hours. 
There must have been some sort of vote where they decided the guy was 
guilty. But how do you go from 12-zip to zip-12 in a few hours? I don't 
get it."

Whatever transpired in the jury room, the case is an object lesson for 
defense attorneys, Linville said.

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