The plaintiff, P, has sued the defendant, D, for copyright infringement in federal district court. The case arises under the Copyright Act of 1976, a federal statute. The plaintiff is a male composer. He claims that the defendant, a female pop singer and songwriter, has infringed his copyright by using one of his lyrics in a song without his authorization.
At jury selection, the attorneys for each side conduct voir dire of prospective jurors. Near the end of the process, P’s attorney has challenged four jurors for cause, three of whom are women. The judge grants one of the challenges, as to a woman juror, and denies the other three. P’s attorney also uses two peremptory challenges to remove two more women from the jury panel. Then, P’s attorney makes a third peremptory challenge against Juror 20, also a woman.
D believes that Juror 20 would be favorable to her, so she wants to have Juror 20 seated. Also, D’s attorney has come to believe that P is seeking to exclude prospective jurors simply because they are women. D’s attorney therefore objects to P’s peremptory challenge to Juror 20, and asks the judge to disallow it.
P’s attorney responds by citing Juror 20’s answers to several voir dire questions, which revealed that she is an aspiring singer who writes her own songs. P’s attorney says that he wants to strike Juror 20 because she might be biased in favor of D, a fellow singer and songwriter. P’s attorney further states that he has not tried to challenge Juror 20 for cause, because he does not believe that the judge would grant such a challenge. The judge overrules the objection and allows the peremptory challenge, causing Juror 20 to be excused.
The judge finally seats a jury of 12, with no alternates. The parties make no stipulations as to whether the jury verdict must be unanimous. The case then proceeds through trial to closing arguments. During a break between the defendant’s closing argument and the plaintiff’s closing argument, Juror 1 suffers a heart attack and is admitted to the hospital. The judge thus formally excuses Juror 1 from service.
During jury instructions, the judge tells the jury that their verdict must be unanimous. Before deliberations can begin, the bailiff informs the judge that Juror 2’s father has died. The judge then excuses Juror 2, leaving 10 jurors to deliberate.
The jury returns, and the jury foreperson announces that the jury has reached a verdict in favor of P. D’s attorney asks the judge to poll the jury, which the judge does in open court. The poll reveals that the jurors were not unanimous; rather, eight jurors voted in favor of P, and two jurors voted in favor of D. D’s attorney immediately moves for a new trial, and the judge denies the motion. The judge reasons that although the verdict was not unanimous, the law requires only six jurors to vote in favor of one side or another to yield a sufficient verdict. The judge then enters judgment on the verdict.
- Did the judge rule correctly in permitting the challenge to Juror 20? Explain.
- Did the judge rule correctly in denying the motion for a new trial and entering judgment on the verdict? Explain.