Freed by Jury Mistake, Man Dies Hours Later; What's a June Jury?

By William Peacock, Esq. on June 12, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We have this game in the office: "Fresno or Florida." It's inspired by Loveline's "Germany or Florida" game. The rules are simple: whenever asinine human conduct happens in America, we ask: Fresno or Florida?

  1. Guy arrested for Super Soaker shotgun? 
  2. Guy arrested for attacking a teenager with a burrito?
  3. Guy blames DUI on a squirrel?
  4. Guy killed by rooster at cockfight?
  5. Lady intentionally sets a brush fire after locking keys in car?

And today's entry: Jury makes mistake on a verdict form, setting a man free. Tragically, he is murdered for apparently unrelated reasons less than an hour later. Was it all thanks to a "June Jury"?

Only in Fresno

You can probably guess, based on the title of this blog, that the case is out of Fresno.

According to the Fresno Bee, Bobby Lee Pearson, 37, along with a co-defendant, was accused of residential burglary and grand theft. Oddly, his co-defendant was found guilty, and faces as much as 30 years to life in prison. Pearson, who had a similar record and apparently had similar evidence presented, was found not guilty on all charges.

Why? The jury mistakenly signed a not guilty form, rather than telling the judge that they were deadlocked, 8-4. It may not have been that much of a miscarriage of justice, however: defense attorney Linden Lindahl told the Bee that both the victim and a police detective had trouble identifying Pearson.

When the confusion was cleared up, the trial judge noted that his hands were tied, as double jeopardy had already attached. Pearson, instead of preparing for a retrial, was a free man.

Tragically, less than an hour after his release, Pearson was dead, allegedly gunned down after an argument with a relative's boyfriend, reports the Bee.

Is a "June Jury" a Thing?

Lindahl blamed the confusion on evidentiary issues and what he calls a "June jury." His theory is that college students, who have delayed their jury service until summer, present, shall we say, unique challenges.

He noted that not only was there verdict form confusion, but the jurors were perplexed about evidentiary issues, such as why the footprints at the scene of the crime were not matched to the defendants' shoes, and why a cell phone was not turned on and examined to determine who owned it.

These kids really need to stop watching CSI: Miami.

In any case, should this be a concern for attorneys, this "June jury" phenomenon? Might there be a "jury of one's peers" issue lurking for a creative appellant?

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