Morgan Will End Greetings For Prospective Jurors After Disagreement With Federal Judges

March 25, 2011

Escambia Sheriff’s David Morgan will no longer greet jurors as they head to service in state or federal court.

“There is no honor in this acquiescence,” Morgan wrote in a letter to Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson.  “Yet what can be only described as an impending media circus must be avoided. I cannot and will not be a player to a diminution or denigration of the judicial process.”

To read Morgan’s complete letter, click here.

Vinson and two other federal judges questioned Morgan’s practice of greeting potential jurors in a parking lot near the Pensacola Civic Center. Prospective jurors are transported by trolley from the parking area to the courthouse. Morgan would personally greet the jurors, often handing them his business card — a practice that he began in January 2007 during his campaign and continued into office.

Good Morning, I’m Sheriff David Morgan. I attempt to get down here on as many Monday’s as possible to thank you for answering the jury summons. I know that this is a disruption of your business or personal day, but you are an integral part of the judicial process. Thank you for your service,”  Morgan said this is the typical statement he makes to potential jurors.

On Wednesday, attorney Michelle Hendrix filed a motion for a court order seeking to keep the sheriff away from the potential jurors in the case of her client, Billings murder suspect Donnie Stallworth.

In a March 17 letter, Morgan said greeting the jurors was his First Amendment right of freedom of speech. “Although an elected official, I retain the First Amendment protection of my rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. I consider the greeting of jurors an exercise of these rights and a function of Sheriff of Escambia County and the Executive Officer of the Court.”  To read the March 17 letter, click here.

“I submit that the likelihood that my greeting creates any ‘bias’ in a prospective juror is infinitesimal,” Morgan wrote in a letter to U.S. Judge Casey Rodgers.

“Your interactions with these prospective jurors raise legitimate concerns about the court’s ability to seat fair and impartial juries, especially when considering that the majority of those selected will serve on criminal juries,” Judge Rogers wrote in a March 3 letter to Morgan requesting that he cease meeting with the prospective jurors. “Even if no actual
bias results, the court nonetheless is concerned that your practice at a minimum gives the appearance of bias, which in our view seriously undermines the public’s confidence in the fair administration of justice.”

In the March 24 letter in which Morgan said he would cease to meet with prospective jurors, he stated, “…a simple ‘thank you for your service’ in answering a jury summons and becoming a part of the judicial process (by a sheriff) is painted to be an insidious assault and an attempt to skew the outcome of a trial(s). This is contorted logic at best. And at worst, this acceptance is yet but one more step down the rungs of our societal ladder of decency and civility. I find it despicable.”

Comments

37 Responses to “Morgan Will End Greetings For Prospective Jurors After Disagreement With Federal Judges”

  1. MattGMD on March 31st, 2011 4:18 pm

    For claiming to have such regard for the judicial branch, Morgan certainly sounds highly contemptuous of the judge’s very reasonable decision. His indignant outburst at being told, basically, to stop his bizarre meet and greet ritual could cause one to wonder if the purpose was not so innocent to begin with. Keep in mind the vast majority of people never have any personal interaction with elected officials. Suddenly meeting the local sheriff “in person” most certainly could sway someone’s opinion in favor of the prosecution and law enforcement in a case. To claim otherwise is disingenuous.

  2. Some Guy on March 31st, 2011 11:41 am

    The question is, what role does the Sheriff play in law enforcement in his state? If theirs is one of just transporting prisoners and guarding the courthouse, I don’t have much of a problem with what he did, but if the Sheriff is active in law enforcement (i.e., they ARE the local police), then what he’s doing is wrong.

    If he chooses to meet those people in street clothes without identifying himself as anything other than a citizen, then his actions are protected IMHO, but by greeting them in his official capacity, I don’t believe he can claim “free speech”.

  3. Jon on March 31st, 2011 1:47 am

    I read the full text of the linked Sheriff’s letter; the story itself does not appear to mention the possibly significant relevant fact that the Sheriff was the’face’ of the case going to trial. I’m not familiar with the case but I can understand why the lawyer asked for the sheriff not to do the meet & greet when he was quite associated with the case going to trial. The judge’s quote used seems quite sensible.

  4. even Steven.. on March 31st, 2011 1:16 am

    The sheriff and those under him are very interested parties in many of the cases that will be heard by the potential jurors. A defendant shaking hands outside the courthouse and handing out business cards would be bared for deliberately attempting to prejudice the jurors in his favor. The sheriff is charged with enforcing the law, Judges are, impartial and are to oversee the trial and steward of the law as to the cases before him in a jury trial.
    I do hope the Sheriff understands these points, but im of the opinion that he may not. If so that is worrying.

  5. dave on March 31st, 2011 12:59 am

    Im never more surprised at the stupidity of others, than those on line. To not understand that just because you post under another name, you are not anonymous….. good luck with your county.

  6. vlad tepes on March 31st, 2011 12:41 am

    I never cease to be shocked by the whiny, aggressive, arrogant stupidity of most people today. In what way, EXACTLY, can someone be “influenced” by having a Sheriff say “hi, thanks for coming in”.? If you come up with your necessarily flawed, infantile argument, you’ve got to answer “how are people not “unduly influenced” by the judge ever saying anything at all to the jury”?

    America has become a nation of ignorant, immoral, lazy, stupid people. As society devolves, we are getting EXACTLY what we deserve for not telling the weak, stupid and malevolent to sit down and shut up.

    I used to put them on sticks….A kind of people-kabob forest. Worked pretty well.

  7. bobk on March 30th, 2011 11:53 pm

    It sounds like Mr. Morgan is a great sheriff, but there is a question about jurors being influenced before the trials. Why not let him thank them after the trial for their service? No one would object to that.

  8. Sapper on March 30th, 2011 11:35 pm

    You know, I feel weird on this one. Normally I don’t agree with law enforcement officials and many of their practices. In this case I feel nothing wrong was done. An elected official takes time out his schedule to thank members of the public for performing their civic duty. An unpleasant and inconvenient duty that most of us try to avoid any way we can. It’s not as though he just started to do this in an attempt to sway a particular case, he has been doing this as often as possible since 2007.

    I think it’s a shame that he had to stop his practice. The sheriff doesn’t want to create a circus of the judicial system so he withdrew. I only wish he could have told them to pound sand without loosing a reelection over it.

    They should make the judges great them every Monday as well.

  9. even Steven.. on March 30th, 2011 11:24 pm

    While it may be Sheriff Morgan is just showing his thanks to the jurors, it does raise issues for the courts. When is it acceptable for a member of the legal process to glad hand a juror? To taint the court by touching and looking the person of a juror in the face Before a trial has taken place, is, well lets be honest, tampering with the system.
    Most citizens are, by tact agreement, in a place of weakness in dealing with law enforcement; We the public place our very lives in the hands of said officers and as such it places a possible shadow over the preceding’ s if higher up law officers shows him/herself to be interested in the outcome. so much so, he has taken time out of his very busy day to thank those sitting in judgment at trial.
    In this light, how could any person, who wishes to receive a “fair” trial, want to see those about to decide their fate shaking hands with the “top cop”.
    Of course, its context here. The Sheriff may shake the hand of anyone whom wishes to do the same, just not in such a way as to invite claims of improper motives.
    I would also like to point out that putting a citizen in the awkward position of refusing to shake the hand of a top law enforcement officer, is poorly thought out on his and his staffs part. But im willing to believe that Everyone wants the honor, if you do……
    just my opinion on the subject…..

  10. Bill on March 30th, 2011 11:01 pm

    Don’t pluralize nouns by using an apostrophe.

    “Good Morning, I’m Sheriff David Morgan. I attempt to get down here on as many Monday’s as possible to thank you for answering the jury summons.”

    That word would be written as Mondays. The only exceptions to this are when pluralizing single characters and words that end with ch (follow the word with es, such as sandwiches).

    Please be literate before attempting to craft literature. Thanks.

  11. Mygaffer on March 30th, 2011 10:43 pm

    “I don’t see why that sheriff can’t stands out there and talk to the folks come in for jury duty at least if they see him they might get the idea to root for putting the bad guy in jail!”
    This is EXACTLY why he can’t. You don’t want jurors “rooting for putting the bad guy in jail” when those on trial are supposed to be presumed innocent.
    Clearly it was inappropriate. Clearly.

  12. David on March 30th, 2011 10:13 pm

    I don’t see why that sheriff can’t stands out there and talk to the folks come in for jury duty at least if they see him they might get the idea to root for putting the bad guy in jail!

  13. Manners Malden the man! on March 30th, 2011 9:49 pm

    What ever happened to manners! I recently did jury duty in Australia and it is quite confronting in itself to be called up as well as a hugh inconvenience (6 weeks). I am a business owner and the exercise near sent me broke but I believe in our system. It at least took sting off by the staff and officials of the court treating us with courtesy. At no stage was it an issue or even relevant to the matter at hand. There was no bias or other. In fact, the offender was his own worst enemy. When is society going to snap out of it and start being realistic and take responsibility for their actions. I know you guys in the US do it differently to us. Here no member of the prosecution or defense or police can approach jurors other than in the court room. Our Sheriffs are employed by the state and is soley a court officer, it sounds a bit different over there. Here we are not allowed to pervert the course of justice and if their is a conflict of interest then we have to acknowledge that and remove ourselves from the situation. From the little I have read this Sheriff of yours seems like a decent man, I see nothing wrong with him greeting jurors as long as he isn’t involved directly with the case at hand. Then he should do it after and thank them regardless of the result.

  14. Scag on March 30th, 2011 9:23 pm

    You guys are funny!

  15. Logan on March 30th, 2011 9:18 pm

    Generally I’m suspicious of law enforcement (considering the times I’ve seen LEOs commit perjury) but this seems pretty benign I don’t really have a problem with it.

  16. Valerie Nixon on March 30th, 2011 9:08 pm

    Good Morning, I’m a random member of the public, I attempt to get down here on as many Mondays as possible to thank you for answering the jury summons. I know that this is a disruption of your business or personal day, but you are an integral part of the judicial process. Please remember to relax. Juries and their members simply cannot be punished for finding someone not guilty if they feel that it would be unjust to do otherwise.

    How long would random member of the public get to continue their civic service educating the potential jurors about jury nullification?

  17. Ron Hyatt on March 30th, 2011 9:01 pm

    two words: Jury Nullification. Use it.

  18. eab on March 29th, 2011 11:06 pm

    Sheriff Morgan said….Dear “WOW”:
    While I have in essence ’sworn off reading blogs,’ your asinine comments deserve a response. Although I’m sure your innate aversion to anything resembling the truth will negate any benefit this response may have, here it is;

    and…Thank you for your inane and insipid comments. Please continue with your sincere efforts in moving our county forward by continuing to spread rumors, propaganda, and as much misinformation as the ethernet can sustain………….

    I said….Well, bless you heart, Sheriff. I support you and what you have tried to do in your time in office. But as an elected official, you may want to stick to not reading blogs. That’s friendly advice.

    If you read our remarks on this forum with any regularity, you should know that you need a thick skin to hang out here. I personally think that’s a good thing. I don’t mind the sharp verbal jousting that goes on here as I would much rather see that than censorship.

    You learn here what to ignore (like Wow’s comments, which I never deemed needed to be taken seriously enough to remember, much less to remark on). Who to poke with a stick just to hear ‘em growl and who you can have a reasonable discussion with. Not many of those.

    I appreciate the facts you provided to clarify this issue but the rest of your post was simply a diatribe. I can only imagine the abuse a public official takes and I sympathize with you about that, but your tone was unseemly for one in your position. it almost sounded as though you and the other individual had an ongoing personal grudge, although I hope that is not the case.

    I wish you good luck, sir.

  19. David Huie Green on March 28th, 2011 1:56 pm

    REGARDING:
    “your asinine comments deserve a response. Although I’m sure your innate aversion to anything resembling the truth will negate any benefit this response may have- – - mudslinging is your chosen profession.
    Thank you for your inane and insipid comments.”

    Well, at least our leader and protector attacked the comments rather than the commenter. Come to think of it, that kind of attitude MIGHT make it harder for a prosecutor to convince a jury rather than make it harder for a defense attorney to defend the accused.

    Well, maybe he’s not so smart-alecky in normal social situations–just like me. He was probably so offended he just couldn’t correct the error without belittling the errorer.

    David for pleasant words and deeds
    (and creative nouns)

  20. Bill Sherman on March 28th, 2011 10:04 am

    Dear Sheriff Morgan – Keep up the Good Work!

    Dear WOW – Sheriff Morgan just introduced you to a “Brandeis Brief”! Enjoy!

  21. Sheriff David Morgan on March 28th, 2011 8:26 am

    Dear “WOW”:
    While I have in essence ’sworn off reading blogs,’ your asinine comments deserve a response. Although I’m sure your innate aversion to anything resembling the truth will negate any benefit this response may have, here it is;
    -The Molino Preceinct is and always has been a Reserve Officer volunteer program. There is no funding to keep it operational. This administration opened it for the first time. We allow Reserve Officers to complete their required 16 hrs per month there, so they do not have to travel to other parts of the county.
    -Attend the Citizens Law Enforcement Academy. Volunteer at a precinct. Then you can negate the ‘fear of retribution’ and speak privately with deputies.
    -The crime stats clearly indicate that the TAC Teams and the Desk to Road programs are working. Again, your crime stats in Dist 5 are next to the lowest in EsCo.
    -We have written more tickets and conducted more drug operations than any previous administration in recent memory.
    -You have to go back to 2006 to find a ECSO budget as low as this one. We have over $6M less than previous administrations.
    -Yes, you are correct. The ECSCO Investigators deserve all the credit for the Billings Case. That is why I called Capt Wood and those officers forward on nationwide television and attested to that very fact.
    -Potential jurors are selected from FL DL and FL ID Card roles, NOT Voter Registration roles. The practice of selecting prospective jurors from ‘voter only roles’ was stopped over a decade ago because people would not register to vote to avoid jury service.
    -Marsh v. State, a case of March 20, 2002 determined the issue of greeting potential jurors in favor of a sheriff. This issue was thoroughly researched.

    But of course there is no ‘fun’ in asking and receiving accurate information to intelligent questions. Especially when mudslinging is your chosen profession.

    Thank you for your inane and insipid comments. Please continue with your sincere efforts in moving our county forward by continuing to spread rumors, propaganda, and as much misinformation as the ethernet can sustain.

    Sheriff Morgan

  22. Wow!!! on March 27th, 2011 1:30 pm

    To Another Century woman,……..what about the folks who live over in the Walnut Hill area. He has done absoutely nothing for them. Nice and friendly is ok but talk is cheap. Molino precinct is shorthanded again. He has pulled off of every shift to make them shorthanded so he could have this elite new unit. He is robbing Peter to pay Paul. I say vote him out!! He needs to do, and not just try.

  23. STUMPKNOCKER on March 26th, 2011 4:20 pm

    IF HIM BEING THERE CAUSED OR MAY CAUSE PROBLEMS FOR THE CASE AT HAND,THEN HE OR ANYONE ELSE OWES IT TO THE VICTIM AND THEIR FAMLIY TO OBEY THE JUDGE AND STAY AWAY.WHATS WRONG WITH SAYING THANK YOU AFTER THE CASE IS DONE OR SEND A LETTER.

  24. David Huie Green on March 26th, 2011 12:46 pm

    REGARDING:
    “But what do you bet it would be different if the accused were down there greeting perspective Jurors. Just to say good morning and I appreciate your service to the process.”

    Judge speaking to prospective jurors: Do any of you know the plaintiff or the defendant? Thank you for your service, you are dismissed. Do any of you know any of the officers involved?

    A hand goes up, “Uh, judge I just met the sheriff on my way in, he seems like a really nice man and I would just about have to believe anything he said to us.”

    Judge: You are dismissed, thank you for your service. Do any of the rest of you know or have had contact with the sheriff? EVERYBODY???? Okay, you are all dismissed, thank you for your service. We’ll try AGAIN next month.

    David imagining an unlikely scenario

  25. Another Century Woman on March 26th, 2011 11:31 am

    TO YOUR MAJESTY: Mr Morgan has did more for this conty than any sherrifI remember in years. I for one appreciate Mr Morgan. Thank you Sherrif Morgan for all you have did for Century. All I ask is don’t stop now, keep going. With your help we can clean up this community . Mr. Morgan is just a nice friendly person who tries to let people know he appreciates us putting our trust and confidence in him. AND HOW DARE ANY OF YOU SAY HE HASN”T TRIED!

  26. me on March 26th, 2011 3:04 am

    I don’t believe mr morgan set out to cause any harm but on the other hand from someone who has been to trial and had one law official testify against them I believe it could cause a juror to feel that our system is fair and justice prevails. But I know first hand without plenty of money for a good lawyer you don’t stand a chance and yes some of our officers make mistakes whether it is intentional or not. Some things are not always as they appear to be.

  27. Century girl on March 25th, 2011 10:22 pm

    I am proud of Sheriff Morgan and seen nothing wrong with him greeting the jurors. Afterall, he isn’t on trial. As for leading us out of the dark ages..well he is sure trying up in our area. He is a good man, an honorable man of good character

  28. gg on March 25th, 2011 7:34 pm

    I see no harm in that.

  29. barrineau on March 25th, 2011 5:47 pm

    I understand both sides of this argument, a line has to be drawn some where. I still do not think he did anything wrong . Old Soldier’s comment prety much say’s it all.

  30. Sam on March 25th, 2011 2:28 pm

    I am actually surprised at the judges issue with this. I think it is very nice that he actually gets out of his office and meets with the community, whether they are on their way to perform a civic duty or not.

    I think David Morgan is a breath of fresh air compared to Ronnie Mac. He has his work cut out for him to clean up the mess he was elected in to .

    Good Luck!

  31. Well on March 25th, 2011 1:10 pm

    So the Sheriff means no harm . Okay

    But what do you bet it would be different if the accused were down there greeting perspective Jurors.Just to say good morning and i appreciate your service to the process.

  32. Wow!!! on March 25th, 2011 11:46 am

    Ronnie Mac is the Sheriff that led the S/O out of the Dark Ages. Morgan has done nothing to even romotely deserve that comment, “led the countys law enforcement out of the Dark Ages. Internally the S/O is colllapsing. If you could get any Deputy to admit without fear of retribution he or she would tell you that it is worse now than when Ronnie Mac was at the helm, and I am not a Ronnie Mac supporter. I understand that the Chief Deputy is making alot of the decisions, if not most of them. Morgan is, if you folks don’t know it,…..is only shaking the hands of potential jurors for political reasons (votes), he did not start shaking hands until he was running for Sheriff, and kept it up after he got elected. He has got nerve to tell the Governor of the state of Florida how to do his job. If that is not proof enough that his ego is as big as King Kong. To tell Federal Judges who are appointed for “LIFE”, to change their policies to have jurors report to the Federal Courthouse, or hire another trolley for the Federal Jurors takes the cake. Oh and by the way, those of you who think that he single handidly solved the Billings murders, think again, those investigators were there when Ronnie Mac was Sheriff. Morgan just took all the credit for it.

  33. Walnut Hill Resident on March 25th, 2011 11:44 am

    Well here goes the bleeding hearts again. My client can’t get a fair jury because, Sheriff Morgan greets the jurors and gives them a business card. Let the lawyers for their client meet the jurors and greet them with their business card. Most of them are more than likely ashamed that they have to represent this client and try to do their best to get them off. Since Sherriff Morgan is doing his job and these judges and lawyers are so much against him having anything to do with the public all of us should just vote their butts out of office and Keep Morgan. You really can’t vote out the bleeding heart lawyers which I have had to deal with numerous times. It would be nice if we could do that but, it is not going to ever be that way. Legal aid lawyers are good for people that need to have them because thay can’t afford a lawyer. I have served on jury duty in this county a few times and it is so stupid to ask the juror if they are for this or that and judge what kind of juror they would make for the public. Excuse me. Not for the public but, for the person who is going to trial. I believe that the bleeding heart lawyers are what has caused this country to be so sue happy over everything.
    I also believe in a fair trial for anyone that has been arrested for anything. I have seen lawyers put things in the heads of their clients to make up anything that they can come up with to try and win their case. I am not saying all lawyers do this but, they are out there in this county and all over the country. Doesn’t matter if the case will hold water or not lets just keep it going until we win something no matter what lie we have to come up with. This happens all the time in our legal system. Most of us really don’t want to believe this but, it does happen.

    Morgan I am proud of you Sir. Keep doing your job and Damn the torpedoes.

  34. Diddleysquat on March 25th, 2011 11:25 am

    In my opinion, Sheriff Morgan is the best Sheriff we have ever had. We still have some of the “Good Ole Boys” around who wish their friends were still in office.
    I appreciate him going out of his way to thank folks for doing their duty.

  35. Name (required) on March 25th, 2011 10:31 am

    Sheriff David Morgan is a great Sheriff.

    I am thankful for him, and the vision he has shown in leading this
    county’s law enforcement out of the dark ages.

    I can understand the judge’s not wanting him greeting the jurors, it
    is a reasonable precaution against influencing the jury. What I can
    not understand is the bias some folks show against his taking the
    time, and making the effort, to show OUR gratitude to jurors for their
    service.

  36. Just An Old Soldier on March 25th, 2011 9:49 am

    When I last had jury duty, a number of people came in to thank us for doing our civic duty.

    It was a nice gesture. I saw no harm in it. It was a positive affirmation and nothing more.

    I would rather have that than a cold bureaucracy shuffling us from one place to another like automatons. If anything it reminded me of the importance and seriousness of the duty as well as the humanity of it.

  37. His Majesty King Morgan on March 25th, 2011 8:11 am

    All Morgan wants to do is greet those jurors so he can get re-elected. I find you Morgan, despicable.





Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) NorthEscambia.com reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.