Defendant’s Juror Misconduct Claim Rejected; Lower Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion with Extent of Inquiry

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a previously posted article, a criminal defendant convicted of various gun charges failed on his insufficiency of the evidence claim. He further argued on appeal that the court improperly concluded that juror misconduct did not take place.

Case Background

Essentially, the defendant claimed that a juror, T, did not believe there was enough evidence that the defendant committed assault. However, T changed his vote to guilty after another juror threatened to hang the jury on an attempted murder charge. The court held an evidentiary hearing, asking questions “which mainly focused on T’s recollection and awareness of the instructions on legal principles that had been given to the jurors prior to their deliberations.” T responded in the affirmative when asked these questions.

Memorandum Issued

Thereafter, the court issued a memorandum that rejected the defendant’s claim of jury misconduct. It explained, in essence, it is only the final and formal conclusion that is considered, not a juror’s prior, private intentions:

Connecticut courts have consistently found that the expressions and arguments of jurors in their deliberations and evidence as to their own motives, beliefs, mistakes and mental operations in arriving at a verdict are to be considered immaterial in claims of juror misconduct. To do otherwise would violate the sanctity of the juror process. …

Court’s Ruling

It is the burden of the defendant to prove actual juror bias and misconduct that resulted in actual prejudice, where the trial court was not responsible. In this case, the defendant argued that the court’s inquiry was not sufficient because “the court did not ask the juror if he recalled the court’s instruction prohibiting consideration of punishment or the consequences of their verdict.”

The Appellate Court concluded that the court’s inquiry into whether juror misconduct occurred “was tailored properly to ascertaining this fact.” It noted that T confirmed that he recalled the relevant instructions given by the court before deliberations began. The court found no need to proceed any further, and to do so would constitute an abuse of discretion. “That the verdict may have been the result of compromise, or a mistake on part of the jury, is possible. But verdicts cannot be upset by speculation or inquiry into such matters.” Therefore, this part of the defendant’s appeal was denied.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.