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Defense: Jouppi can’t get fair trial in Duluth

GetContentDefense: Jouppi can’t get fair trial in Duluth

MARK STODGHILL mstodghill@duluthnews.com

Duluth police Officer Richard Jouppi, accused of assaulting a man in a wheelchair after taking him to the Duluth Detoxification Center, can’t receive a fair trial in St. Louis County, and it’s highly likely there will be protests outside the courthouse if his trial is held here, according to a jury consultant hired by the defense.

A study done by Diane Wiley, president of the National Jury Project Midwest in Minneapolis, has been submitted to the court by Jouppi’s defense attorney , Frederic Bruno.

The National Jury Project is a not-for-profit corporation with regional offices in Minneapolis, Madison, N.J.; and Oakland, Calif., specializing in the study of the American Jury System.

In an affidavit supporting her study, Wiley wrote that she has consulted or given written or oral testimony in more than 60 cases involving recommendations for change of venue, including the 1979 Marjorie Caldwell case, which was moved from Duluth to Dakota County. Caldwell was accused of killing her mother, Elisabeth Congdon, and her mother’s nurse, Velma Pietila, at the Glensheen estate in Duluth. Wiley also has recommended to attorneys when they should not seek a change of venue in various cases.

Wiley opines in her 29-page report that potential jurors in another community would be highly unlikely to already have such strong opinions about the case as those in St. Louis County.    “If the trial were to be moved to a different county outside of the Duluth media market, potential jurors would have less emotional investment in the case,” Wiley wrote.

“The case would undoubtedly still get news coverage when it was moved, but there wouldn’t be all of the emotional layers of the community’s response since late September to continuing news coverage, discussion, vilification of Officer Jouppi, recitation of Officer Jouppi’s previous history and local support of Mr. Jackson to interfere with jurors’ abilities to be fair. There would also be few, if any potential jurors who already have concluded that Mr. Jackson was in the wrong and that Officer Jouppi was right to have taken the actions he did.”

Jouppi is charged with misdemeanor fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct in connection with the Sept. 21 incident, which was captured on videotape and shows the officer attempting to restrain a belligerent Anthony Jon Jackson and then punching Jackson repeatedly after Jackson struck Jouppi once in the face.

Bruno, who was hired by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Legal Defense Fund, said Jouppi responded according to his training and experience and did what he had to do in self-defense. The Duluth police administration disagrees with the defense attorney.

Jouppi remains on unpaid administrative leave with his department’s intent to fire him, but no final disposition has been reached.

Duluth Police Union President Tom Maida said Wednesday that there is no final discipline yet and the union remains involved in the case.

Jouppi faces the loss of his peace officer license if convicted of assault.

Bruno couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. He is representing a Minneapolis police officer on trial in Anoka County for allegedly assaulting a man in a bar-restaurant while off duty.

Shawn Reed, a Duluth attorney who serves as the Hermantown city prosecutor, was appointed as special prosecutor in the Jouppi case. He opposes having the trial moved. He has until April 19 to submit written arguments to the court and Judge John DeSanto will then make a decision on the change of venue request.

Northeastern Minnesota Chief Public Defender Fred Friedman said his office has hired a jury consultant once or twice during his 27 years heading the office.

“Diane (Wiley) has a national reputation as one of the few people that does those surveys; I think her work is pretty good,” Friedman said. “But there is definitely a trend in Minnesota not to move cases because of prejudicial pretrial publicity. I don’t know if it’s politics, I don’t know if people are perceiving it as offending the local people by suggesting that they can’t be fair. I don’t know. It was more natural to move trials before the Internet because people got their news from local papers. Now people can see news from around the state.”

In 2010, Friedman’s office paid Wiley $10,000 to conduct a jury study in an Iron Range murder case. After the study, Jesaiah Carlson pleaded guilty to the intentional second-degree murder of Megan Ashley Anderson in Eveleth and he agreed to a 40-year prison sentence. His defense attorney, Scott Belfry, said Wednesday that Wiley’s study showed that Carlson couldn’t get a fair trial at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia, but the court denied requests to move it. That played a huge role in Carlson pleading guilty to the crime, rather than putting his fate in the hands of potentially prejudicial jurors, Belfry said.

Wiley had some history to work with in predicting in her study that protests could be held outside the St. Louis County Courthouse if Jouppi’s trial is held here. In October, a group of about 50 American Indians gathered at the Duluth Civic Center to protest Jouppi’s actions against Jackson, who is American Indian. Some members of the group called for charges against Jouppi to be increased from misdemeanor assault to felony assault.

“Given the outpouring of support by the American Indian community for Mr. Jackson and negative news coverage and commentary against Officer Jouppi, it is highly likely that a large percentage of St. Louis County residents will not only feel that Officer Jouppi is guilty, but will also perceive that many other community members agree with them,” Wiley wrote.

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