Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Yet Another American Black-Box Jury Makes People Wonder “What DID Go On Inside?”

Posted by Peter Quennell

1. Italian v Common-Law Juries

We have posted previously that, as is not the case in Italy, in the US jury trials are becoming rare.

  • Unlike in Italy prosecutors can bargain and as there is usually a lot more stick than carrot and a crapshoot as the alternative a lot of innocent people simply cave.

  • Unlike in Italy, common-law juries don’t have to write it all out. Jurists can later explain if they want, but many don’t, and what went on within the “black box” may never leak out.

  • Unlike in Italy the US mostly has no education standards to end up on a jury, and there is a belief that only those too dumb to get themselves waived end up in a jury of one’s “peers”.
  • [Usually] Unlike in Italy if scientific tricks especially on DNA and psychology are played upon juries they can result in guilty clients walking free, and predatory firms saving millions in fines.

Dummies like Heavey and Moore and Fischer sure took the wrong system to task.

2. After The Waldroup Case

In both the US and the UK surprise jury outcomes happen frequently. In the US the Ethan Crouch case was one. The Casey Anthony case was another. The Bradley Waldroup case was yet another.

After 11 hours of deliberation, the jury had reached a decision: voluntary manslaughter, not murder. Others in the courtroom were astonished. “I was just flabbergasted. I did not know how to react to it,” prosecuting attorney Drew Robinson said later in an interview with NPR.

It had looked like an open and shut case. Following a dispute, Bradley Waldroup shot his wife’s friend eight times. Then he attacked his wife with a machete. His wife survived. Her friend did not.

Waldroup admitted responsibility for the crimes; prosecutors in Tennessee charged him with murder and attempted first-degree murder. If guilty, a death sentence looked likely.

But then his defence team decided to ask for a scientific assessment. It turned out that Waldroup had an unusual variant of the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene ““ dubbed the “warrior gene” by some in the media because of its association with antisocial behaviour including impulsive aggression.

A forensic scientist testified that Waldroup’s genetic makeup, combined with the abuse he had experienced as a child, left him at greater risk of violent behaviour.

To many outside observers, it seemed that this evidence played a significant part in Waldroup’s case. This perception was compounded after some on the jury said later that the genetics influenced their decision to find Waldroup guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder. “A bad gene is a bad gene,” one juror told NPR.

A flood of research (hardly necessary in Italy) was then turned on.  But (contrary to the above) it could suggest that a lot of courtroom science may - may - leave many juries cold.

It’s easy to get the impression that dangerous criminals are routinely escaping harsher punishments because defence attorneys are using genetics and neuroscience as a trump card.

The reality may be a lot more mundane. Far from revolutionising the criminal justice system, Denno thinks genetics and neuroscience are simply slotting into a pre-existing arsenal of scientific tools that defence or prosecuting attorneys can use to build a case.

The general public may be more resistant to the allure of science than many people might typically assume.

Over their heads? Suspicion of experts? Natural smarts? Who knows?  Other than in Italy, the black-box crapshoot still rules.

3. More Reading On Jury Issues

1 Click for Post:  It Is The Jury That Ultimately Matters: How They May Be Seeing The DNA Here

2 Click for Post:  A Common View In Legal Circles: Knox Campaign Often Talks Legal Nonsense

3 Click for Post:  Interesting Tilts Of Marcia Clark And Alan Dershowitz Toward Educated, Informed Italian-type Juries

4 Click for Post:  Casey Anthony And Sollecito/Knox Outcomes Spark Discussion Of The CSI Effect

5 Click for Post:  Outcry In England At Evidence And Jury-Briefing Requirements Which Make Convictions Much Harder

6 Click for Post:  In Trial For Killing Of 77, Norway Very Complexed Whether Perpetrator Is Barking Mad

7 Click for Post:  Reasonable Doubt In Italian Law: How Sollecito, Hellmann, And Zanetti Seriously Garbled It

8 Click for Post:  Obstruction Of Justice? How The Guardian Poisons Public Opinion Against The Italian Courts

9 Click for Post:  Italy Pushes Back On Dirty Tricks And Frame-Ups: Examples Of What Sollecito Must Defend In Court

10 Click for Post:  See Sollecito’s & Gumbel’s Myriad Defamatory Attacks On Italian Justice; Charges Are Expected

11 Click for Post:  Why Numerous American JUDGES Favor The Supremely Neutral Italian Kind Of System

12 Click for Post:  Why Italy Doesnt Look For Guidance On Its Justice System From What It Sees As Foreign Smartasses

13 Click for Post:  How The Italian “Justice Tortoise” Is The Likely Winner Compared To For Example the US System

14 Click for Post:  So Where Would YOU Want To Go On Trial? In Italy Or In The U.S.?

15 Click for Post:  Netflixhoax 6: Omitted - The Almost Unique Carefulness Of Italy’s Justice System

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/05/18 at 05:00 AM in


So over many years the Innocence Project has sprung a quarter of a thousand innocents. Only 199,750 to go - into the 22nd century at that rate.

Do they tell us this? Oh no….

How many strong-armed plea-bargains did ex-judge Heavey and ex-FBI Moore sign off on? Probably quite a lot. 

Do they tell us this? Oh no….

The Fischer group barely seem to know which way is up, otherwise they would realize they are being had. By the REAL anti-justice forces right here.

They are not only MAFIA tools.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/05/18 at 06:55 PM | #

Details from the website of the local paper the Chattanoogan on the outcome of the Waldroup case:

“Bradley Davis “Brad” Waldroup on Thursday was given a 32-year prison sentence to be served at 100 percent for the 2006 murder of Leslie Bradshaw and beating and slashing of his ex-wife, Penny Waldroup.

Ms. Bradshaw was shot eight times and slashed in the head with a machete.

Judge Carroll Ross, sitting at Benton in Polk County, gave Waldroup 20 years on one count of especially aggravated kidnapping and a consecutive 12 years on a second count. Those must be served at 100 percent.

He also gave Waldroup the maximum six years for voluntary manslaughter and 12 years for attempted second-degree murder. Those are concurrent with the 32 years.”

Confusing or what?

In so far as the “warrior gene” argument may have saved him from the death penalty (if applicable) then I have no argument with the outcome, bizarre as the convictions and sentencing were (i.e voluntary manslaughter in one instance, attempted second degree murder in the other, 6 years for the former, 12 for the latter, 20 years for aggravated kidnapping) as I am opposed to the death penalty. He’s going to have to serve a full 32 years.

Does Amanda Knox have a warrior gene? How about Oscar Pistorius?

It seems to me that the law, and the sentencing guidelines, were caught on the hop by the voluntary manslaughter outcome, save that the convictions for the other charges allowed the judge to tally up an appropriate outcome.

One can still see a considerable problem if the law does not address the warrior gene “defence” which, it seems to me, would apply to both first and second degree murder.

I am also rather doubtful as to whether there is such a thing as a warrior gene, what it really means, and how prevalent it is in the general population. Maybe we all have it. There is a tendency nowadays to think that we have a gene for this and a gene for that, but I suspect that is just too simplistic.

We are into the nature versus nurture debate. Perhaps it is a combination of genes and upbringing, but how much of this can be taken as an excuse?

(Waldroup claimed to have had an abusive upbringing though his children had no criticism of his behaviour towards them)

Posted by James Raper on 06/06/18 at 12:13 PM | #

Great catch by James.

Just some more on how the judge smartly corrected for a jury outcome that was quirky to say the least.

Generally American judges here dont seem to go along at all with the slam-Italian-justice brigade - which was initiated in large part by a judge!! Judge Heavey.

He remains an extreme outlier - we dont know of a single other judge who goes along with him.  And remember, Heavey got himself reprimanded, and that was by a panel of his peers, who thought he was way out of line.


In consequence he soon retired from the court - only to continue his quixotic and self-delusional venture.


Smarter American judges seem to think the problem is here, not there, and express their dislike at the huge power grab by prosecutors and the plea-bargaining done under threat, which renders their courts for the most part empty.


The dopey Innocence Project and dopey Fischer group did THEMSELVES no favors by creating the delusion that Italy is so much worse off. It isn’t - and its system is a pretty good model, one that could have HELPED their causes.

If the Italy Innocence Project site is anything to go on, they still have zero cases. How about that, Heavey and Hampikian?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/06/18 at 03:49 PM | #

Addition to the top post: it’s number 11 on American judges in the list of posts.

We know some who’d trade places with their Italian counterparts in a heartbeat - they’d actually enjoy having to explain everything in writing.

That’s work for grown-ups as compared to having to watch helplessly while too many juries perpetrate their clown acts - thus speeding their own extinction?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/11/18 at 09:12 PM | #

I agree with points under 1. above that explain why U.S. justice is somewhat of a crapshoot: the prosecutors plea bargain, juries don’t have to explain their reasoning, and jurors may be of low intelligence, unable to wriggle out of jury duty. I would waive my jury trial and beg for a judge’s verdict.

Interesting comment says Bongiorno has been sidelined to a position where she is to help streamline Italian justice, cut the fat, improve efficiency. If she can achieve that it would be good.

Posted by Hopeful on 06/14/18 at 04:25 AM | #

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