RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE A Practice Manual – Juror Statements

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

JUROR CONDUCT

Juror Statements

State v. Carmody, 471 A.2d 1363 (R.I. 1984). During voir dire, a prospective juror said he thought defendant was guilty. The trial judge failed to immediately give an adequate cautionary instruction. See R.I. R. EVID. 606(b).

Trial justice must immediately caution the jury that they are to disregard the juror’s comments.

State v. Pusyka, 592 A.2d 850 (R.I. 1991). During an arson trial, a newspaper article came to a juror’s attention and he asked to be excused. Trial judge replaced the juror and immediately voir dired the panel. R.I.S.C. affirmed.

The article was an objective account of the trial and unlikely to cause prejudice.
Trial judge’s timely action also prevented any prejudice to defendant.
State v. Drowne, 602 A.2d 540 (R.I. 1992). A juror polled after verdict was equivocal as to defendant’s guilt as to one count. Trial court voir dired the juror and accepted her guilty vote. R.I.S.C. affirmed.

Rule 606(b) requires finality of judgment.
When vote is equivocal, judge must determine whether juror’s response is so far removed from the verdict as to make the verdict defective, or whether the defect could be cured by further interrogation or deliberations.
Trial court may not inquire as to the juror’s deliberative process except as to extraneous information. See Hartley, below.
State v. Martinez, 652 A.2d 958 (R.I. 1995). Juror’s comments during voir dire about seeing defendant at the A.C.I. did not require a mistrial.

The statement was made before selection was complete.
Defense counsel did not request a cautionary instruction.
Evidence of defendant’s guilt was overwhelming.
State v. Nelson, 982 A.2d 602 (R.I. 2009). During voir dire at trial for DUI resulting in serious bodily injury, a prospective juror commented in open court that she could not be impartial because she “had three students killed by drunk drivers.” The juror was immediately excused and defense counsel moved for a mistrial. The trial justice denied the motion, largely because the comment did not specifically refer to the defendant, but cautioned the jurors to disregard the comments and continue to presume defendant’s innocence. R.I.S.C. affirmed.

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