Friday, October 14, 2016

Your Honor, He's Guilty With Or Without A Yankee Hat

Marbury v. Madison, Plessy v. Ferguson,  Roe v. Wade—and now, U.S. v. Yankee Hat Guy. Some Rhode Island guy wearing a Yankee hat allegedly committed bank fraud and was ultimately convicted and sentenced to five years in the 'hoosegow'. On appeal, he claimed that he could not get a fair trial from a bunch of jurors who were Red Sox fans. A Federal appeals court recently set the record straight—stating that a jury full of Sox fans can indeed be fair-minded (even to a felonious Yankee fan). Said the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit,  '[Defendant] argues that a handful of references to his wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap prejudiced the jury (which he assumes to have been composed of Boston Red Sox fans) against him. As an initial matter, all but two of the cited references occurred during defense counsel's cross-examination. In any event, this testimony, like the references to luxury vehicles discussed above, was relevant to the witnesses' knowledge of [the defendant] and his appearance. Any possibility of unfair prejudice was ameliorated when the district court explicitly instructed the Rhode Island jury not to hold [the defendant's] wearing of a Yankees hat against him.' Which we're sure they did.