Sep 19, 2012

Verdict Watch: Amish Hair-Cutting Trial

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Sam Mullet

In its fourth day of deliberations, the jury in the Amish hair-cutting trial has now twice sought clarity on the fine points. It isn't surprising that they would need both time and clarification with this case. Bear in mind that they have to determine the guilt or innocence of sixteen defendants, dressed in matching styles, and variously named Mullet and Miller. They are facing different sets of charges and have multiple defense attorneys with differing arguments.

Today the jury attempted to parse the fine points of their individual culpability in a conspiracy that may not involve all the parties.

The U.S. District Court jury in the trial of 16 Amish reconvened and promptly asked the judge if a conspiracy could involve just some of the defendants.

Judge Dan Aaron Polster told the jury that a conspiracy wouldn't necessarily need to involve all nine victims in the five attacks or all 16 defendants. Defense attorneys argued that the indictment specified a plot against nine victims, but Polster overruled them.

The indictment charges the defendants with conspiring to cause bodily harm to the victims. The judge said that if all 12 jurors agree that the government proved a conspiracy, the jury then must separately decide who plotted.

Last week, only three hours into deliberations, jurors called for more explanation of the hate crimes statute.

They asked for the definitions of "disfigurement" and "mental faculty."

Once all the attorneys and defendants assembled in the courtroom by 11:45 a.m., Polster said his reply would be "As for disfigurement, Congress did not define disfigurement so I am not use your own common sense and your everyday experiences....look at how bodily injury is defined in the instructions as any injury to the body..."

" for mental faculty, (prosecutors) have not argued that any victim suffered an injury of a mental capacity...."

Prosecutors did not object to his language and only two defense attorneys asked for a minor modification but Polster denied the modifications.

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