Judiciary

Judge chides jury for 'bizarre' DWI acquittal, sees OJ Simpson parallel


A Texas judge recently disagreed with a jury’s acquittal in a DWI case, and he let them know it.

Visiting Judge Jerry Ray told Tarrant County jurors that the acquittal amounted to jury nullification and it was “one of the most bizarre verdicts that I’ve ever seen.” The blog Liberally Lean from the Land of Dairy Queen published the Oct. 29 court transcript, which was picked up by Texas Monthly, the blog Grits for Breakfast, the Dallas Observer blog Unfair Park and Texas Lawyer.

The defendant, David Tran, was 17 years old at the time of his arrest for alleged drunken driving. The Intoxilyzer showed a blood alcohol level of .095, above the legal limit of .08.

After the verdict, Ray told Tran, “You got lucky. You absolutely are legally guilty of this offense.”

Then Ray addressed the jury. “It would appear, ladies and gentleman, that you—You know, and I’ve been at this such a long time I know better than to get angry. But you just decided to ignore the law and your oath, and you know you did.”

Ray referenced a jury note about the Intoxilyzer which, he said, asked if they could ignore it. “And for whatever reasons,” Ray said, “you chose to ignore that part of the evidence. And you have the right to do that. It’s called jury nullification. It’s when a jury decides to ignore the law or ignore evidence. And they maneuver until they get there. Perfect example, the O.J. Simpson trial. He clearly committed murder, and they didn’t want to convict him, so they found a way to—to render a not guilty verdict. I’ve been around over 40 years in this profession, tried an awful lot of cases as a defense lawyer, a prosecutor and as a judge, and it happens. But this ranks among there as one of the most bizarre verdicts that I’ve seen.”

The defense lawyer, Fort Worth solo Jay Caballero, told Unfair Park he was stunned by the judge’s comments. “At first I thought about whether I should object,” he said. “Then I decided, well, I’ve won, and he’s not going to make a favorable impression on the jury by doing this.”

He said jurors told him after the verdict that they didn’t believe police officers had sufficient reason to arrest Tran.

Ray declined to comment when contacted by the Texas Lawyer.

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