MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Once jurors are selected for the trial of two accused hit men in Craig Petties' drug ring, they will be transported to and from court by a U.S. Marshal from an undisclosed location. The federal judge is not sequestering the jury, which means jurors can go home at night.
If you were on a Shelby County jury, you could expect something completely different. Shelby County judges waste your money keeping juries away from TV's, cell phones and the internet.
It happens more than you think and costs more than you want to know. During a one year period, Shelby County sequestered more than 50 juries.
When a judge wants to keep juries away from the outside world, it's known as being sequestered. Excessive media attention is the most common reason for sequestering a jury.
The question is in Shelby County, are any of the cases so high profile juries need to be sequestered?
It's hard not to get more high profile than Michael Jackson. When Dr. Conrad Murray was on trial in California for the King of Pop's death last fall there were crowds, news crews and non-stop coverage. All that attention still wasn't enough for the California judge to order the jury sequestered.
Whether it's in California or Tennessee, when juries are sequestered taxpayers pick up the tab. That includes putting jurors in hotel rooms, feeding them and the deputies watching them three meals a day plus snacks, their transportation and even entertainment such as trips to Graceland and the Civil Rights Museum.
More juries are sequestered in Memphis than Nashville, Houston, Detroit or Los Angeles.
According to court clerk offices around the country, the number of juries sequestered in Nashville in 2010: zero. Wayne County, where Detroit is located, also a big fat zero. Los Angeles County? You guessed it, zero. The last sequestered trial there was OJ Simpson in 1995. Harris County and city of Houston had one.
How many did Shelby County have during only one year? 53.
"That surprises me there would be so many," said prominent Memphis defense lawyer, Leslie Ballin. "Maybe it's just because we are used to it. It's become common practice; maybe judges want to err on the side of caution."
Dr. Phillip Maloney teaches philosophy of law at Christian Brothers University. He noted, "It surprises me such a difference between us and so many other major cities … I think sequestering is an imperfect tool; I think you can accomplish the same goals of sequestration by jury instruction."
You might say because Memphis is a dangerous city juries need to be sequestered. Well Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles have their fair share of gangs, drugs and murders too, and they aren't spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on sequestering.
In Shelby County, to sequester or not is a decision left up to the judge.
"I think you could find a case where it could be said it wasn't necessary; let's face it, it's expensive," Ballin said.
And expensive it is. Coming up in part 2 of this report, we will break down just how much Shelby County is spending - and wait until you hear one judge's excuse for spending your money.
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