Jurors are reluctant to take the Fifth in high-profile cases like the Joran van der Sloot trial

Jurors who took the Fifth during the Joran van der Sloot trial said they had to, otherwise they “would know how highly respected he was” among the elite for taking the trial to the extent that he did, said Dr. Steven Messing, the chairman of the criminal justice department at Villanova University.

But juries were less willing to take that stance when telling the key conspirator in the Wendy’s double-murder case, Eric McMichael, that they had to try him for the crime.

The jury that indicted the onetime NFL standout, Mr. McMichael, in a murder trial, said they couldn’t come to a conclusion because he wasn’t open about the case, according to transcripts that were unsealed in the case.

“If I can see the blood, there’s no question, that I can understand something happened,” the juror said. “But here, they’re not being open about it at all. That’s the major problem.”

The New York Times obtained from the court unsealed transcripts from the trial of Eric McMichael, in which a Joran van der Sloot defense attorney is asking the jury to convict him.

To Mr. Messing, there was no reason for a jury in a Rittenhouse Park murder case in Philadelphia to take the Fifth.

“If you’re asking me to see Joran van der Sloot’s blood, I’m sure that Joran van der Sloot will have plenty of blood on his hands, and I would be more than happy to be a part of that trial,” he said.

But a jury that was asked if it could reach a verdict without hearing evidence from Eric McMichael told Mr. Messing, “not likely,” and then asked to recuse themselves.

“I think jurors felt like his defense couldn’t have been as solid as his actual involvement in the killings,” Mr. Messing said.

Dr. Donald Schwoerer, the dean of Drexel University Law School, said he believed the jury that convicted Mr. McMichael had to deliberate on the case for 15 days before coming to a verdict, because the prosecutor was waiting to present “large chunks” of his case. But as a key witness in a homicide case, he could have spoken from the witness stand.

Mr. Messing said Joran van der Sloot took much less time from the jury, telling them that he was innocent and that they should wait for the prosecutors to prove it.

“I think the jury had to take the Fifth because they were afraid that they would think Joran van der Sloot was lying to them,” Mr. Messing said.

Mr. Messing said he thought the fact that Joran van der Sloot had asked for a plea bargain seemed to put jurors at ease.

“He admitted culpability in the double homicide,” Mr. Messing said. “He admitted culpability in the restaurant robberies. He admitted culpability in the murder of Anita Acosta.”

The jury in the case who took the Fifth did so as defendants in the case tried to avoid another lengthy trial.

“The reason they did the Fifth, I think, is because they felt that the case had been presented to them that the DA wanted to present,” he said. “Because the DA asked for a plea and he didn’t plea, he wanted a trial.”

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