RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE A Practice Manual – Juror Conduct

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


Juror Conduct

State v. Hartley, 656 A.2d 954 (R.I. 1995). During deliberations in a robbery case, several jurors had tainted deliberations with extraneous information learned outside the scope of the trial. R.I.S.C. ordered a hearing to determine what extraneous information reached the jury and whether defendant was prejudiced. A new trial was eventually ordered.

Trial court may not inquire as to the effect the information had on the deliberative process.

Trial judge must consider if the extraneous information would probably influence the decision of an average reasonable juror.
State v. Rodriguez, 694 A.2d 1202 (R.I. 1997). In a robbery case, a juror visited the store in question during the trial to see the position of the video cameras. The trial judge ordered a new trial but R.I.S.C. reversed.

Extraneous information received probably would not have influenced the decision of an average reasonable juror because other jurors could determine the position of the cameras from evidence adduced at trial.
State v. DaSilva, 742 A.2d 721 (R.I. 1999). During deliberations in a child molestation trial, a juror learned that her own granddaughter had recently been molested and candidly disclosed this to the judge. The juror assured judge and counsel that she could remain fair and impartial, and she was permitted to continue deliberations. The judge denied defense counsel’s subsequent requests for mistrial or to examine the juror further. R.I.S.C. vacated and remanded.

“It is well settled that when questions concerning a juror’s fitness are raised, the trial justice must conduct sufficient inquiry to make a reasoned determination whether the juror should be discharged or may continue to serve. The Sixth Amendment requires “diligent scrutiny’ to protect the defendant’s right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury.” Id. at 725.
“The juror said enough to raise an immediate concern necessitating further inquiry, and the unfortunate failure to do so by the trial justice resulted in a violation of the defendant’s right to an impartial jury determination of his guilt.. Without further inquiry, the trial justice was not sufficiently informed of the issue to adequately exercise his discretion.” Moreover, a cautionary instruction to the jury cannot serve as a substitute to voir dire of the individual juror. Id. at 725-26.
State v. Briggs. 886 A.2d 735 (R.I. 2005). Over defendant’s objection, the trial justice dismissed a juror mid-trial that had discussed the case with his wife, who herself had been attending the trial and spoken with one of the state’s witnesses. R.I.S.C. affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not abuse her discretion or violate defendant’s trial rights.

State v. Quinlan, 921 A.2d 96 (R.I. 2007). Trial judge did not abuse his discretion by refusing to grant a mistrial and failing to admonish the jury based on juror misconduct. During the trial, one juror spoke to others about the case, visited the crime scene, and read a news report about the murder case. While the juror did speak about the case in general terms, he did not discuss defendant’s guilt or innocence, and the record disclosed that the other jurors ignored him. The juror was dismissed and the judge issued a cautionary instruction to the remaining jurors. R.I.S.C. affirmed.

Defense counsel’s acceptance of the judge’s cautionary instruction also constituted waiver of the objection as an appealable issue.

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