X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
BOSTON � Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers are calling a post-verdict inquiry into jurors’ potential racial bias in the high-profile Cape Cod trial involving the murder of fashion writer Christa Worthington a necessary check on juror impartiality in a state with few safeguards against tainted juries. Unlike in many other states, Massachusetts judges generally don’t allow lawyers to conduct voir dire of potential individual jurors. Additionally, a state ethical rule bars lawyers from contacting jurors following a Massachusetts case. Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Gary A. Nickerson scheduled hearings for Jan. 10 and Jan. 11 to question jurors about racist statements allegedly made by various jurors during deliberations. Commonwealth v. McCowen, No. BACR2005-00109 (Barnstable Co., Mass., Super. Ct.). Bob George, a Boston lawyer at Robert A. George & Associates who represents convicted defendant Christopher M. McCowen, said three jurors contacted him separately within a few days of the Nov. 16, 2006, verdict about the racially charged atmosphere in the jury room. “I have a duty, when they make those kinds of allegations, to meet with them and take down what their claims are and how it impacts jury deliberations,” George said. A life sentence The jury found McCowen, a black garbage collector, guilty of burglary, first-degree murder and aggravated rape of Worthington, who was white. Nickerson sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder and concurrent life sentences for the rape and burglary charges. McCowen, who did not testify during the trial, told police that he and Worthington had consensual sex and that he beat her, but that a friend killed her. George has filed a separate motion for a new trial based on the failure of prosecution to provide exculpatory evidence. George said the post-verdict hearing may extend beyond late last week because the court has given him funding to hire experts on jury deliberations and racial bias, but neither was scheduled to appear on Jan. 10 or 11. Through a spokeswoman, Michael O’Keefe, district attorney for Cape Cod, declined to talk about the case. The post-verdict hearing may be unusual, but the dearth of hearings doesn’t mean there are no problems with the state’s judicial system, said Randy Chapman, president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and an attorney at Chapman & Chapman in Chelsea, Mass. Since voir dire of individual jurors usually isn’t an option in Massachusetts, it’s hard for lawyers to detect jurors’ biases or prejudices, Chapman said.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.