Shanterrica Madden is on trial for the murder of MTSU basketball star Tina Stewart . Brandon Gee reported on a recent hearing in The Tennessean . Circuit Court Judge Don Ash follows a novel procedure that allows jurors to ask questions during the trial. Defense attorney Joe Brandon filed a pre-trial motion hoping to persuade the court from using the procedure. I can understand his position . Mr. Brandon may assert a self-defense argument. So , he does not want the jurors asking questions of his client while she is on the stand.
Basically , the jurors would submit written questions anonymously to the trial court . The court would review the questions and exercise it’s discretion in deciding to submit these questions . Normally , the district attorney and the criminal defense lawyer ask questions of a witness during a trial.The Tennessee Supreme Court adopted this rule in 2003 , but from my experience this procedure has been seldom used . I am not aware of any Nashville criminal court judge currently using this procedure . Years ago , I tried a case in Williamson County with Judge Harris who tried the process . In my opinion it did not go well because most of the questions tendered were in violation of the rules of evidence. It also slowed the trial down and created too many interruptions of the trial.
I am all in favor of jurors having all the information available to them to decide the case. However , the Tennessee Rules of Evidence gives trial lawyers the rules on questions that can be asked or not. In my experience the questions were not allowed based upon some rule of evidence. What if the juror asks a leading question or did they take a lie detector test .Clearly , the process in this high profile murder case may be bogged down due to juror questioning .It seems to me the new rules make the courtroom like a reality TV show with the jurors taking a active role.
My opinion is to stay true to the traditional courtroom procedure . Our justice system has a lot of problems , but it’s the best one in the world today. I think it is time to abolish this seldom used rule.
I would like to hear your opinion. Should jurors be allowed to ask questions to the witnesses ? Please post your comment .