Juror Misconduct Results in the Reversal of a Defendant’s Criminal Conviction

By: Wallin & Klarich

It was recently reported that a California court held that a juror in a criminal trial was engaged in prejudicial misconduct. The court found that a juror engaged in conversations with a non-juror friend about trial matters concerning the merits of the case, including discussions about the defendant’s decision not to testify. (People v. Cissna (Feb. 26, 2010) Case No. D053464). It was thus decided a retrial would be granted.

Jurors who are selected through jury selection take an oath to follow a court’s instructions designed to eliminate outside influences and generate decisions based solely on the evidence presented at trial. In this case, one juror ignored these rules and violated his sworn duties by speaking on a daily basis about the merits of the case with his non-juror friend. After the defendant was found guilty, the defendant learned of this juror’s misconduct and moved for a new trial.

The court concluded that these conversations interfered with the deliberative process and the right to have the case decided by twelve impartial jurors. The court explained that the defendant could not receive a fair trial when even one juror lacked impartiality. Therefore, the juror’s misconduct in this case required that the judgment be reversed.

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Posted In: Criminal Appeals