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RI Criminal Defense Practice Manual CoverRHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE
A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
© John E. MacDonald


Juror Bias

State v. Valcourt, 792 A.2d 732 (R.I. 2002). Two jurors in a child molestation case overheard a conversation in which defendant was talking about DCYF and child support. The jurors informed the trial judge and one was dismissed while the other was retained, over defendant’s objections, because she insisted that the conversation would not influence her ability to remain fair and impartial. R.I.S.C. affirmed.

“It is well-settled in this jurisdiction that the issue of whether a juror is disqualified due to bias, prejudice or interest is left to the discretion of the trial justice.” Id. at 735 (quoting State v. Berberian, 374 A.2d 778, 781 (R.I. 1977)).
The trial judge conducted an in camera hearing and extensive inquiry before determining that the comments were not so prejudicial as to arouse the passions of the jury.
State v. Oliveira, 774 A.2d 893, 915 (R.I. 2001). During trial and in the presence of the other jurors, a juror said “they should just hang them all.” The trial judge dismissed the juror. Defendant argued that the comment was sufficiently prejudicial that the judge should have granted a mistrial, or alternatively voir dired the remaining jurors. R.I.S.C. affirmed and noted that defense counsel failed to request either of these remedies during trial.

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