Juror Misconduct at Your Trial
Jurors are ordinary people called upon by their communities to render an important and valuable service. When a person is seated as a juror, he or she has an obligation to set aside the affairs of his or her life and devote his or her attention to the evidence and testimony of a trial that may last a few hours or several weeks. The juror must also set aside any prejudice or bias he or she may have and apply unfamiliar and sometimes-cumbersome legal instructions to the facts that he or she believes have been established through the trial. It is this system – the jury system – that Florida and the rest of the United States rely upon to ensure no person is convicted of a crime except upon proof that convinces beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Happens When Jurors “Misbehave”?
Jurors who commit acts of misconduct – that is, jurors who do not follow the instructions and admonitions of the court during the course of the trial – jeopardize the fairness and integrity of the trial and any verdict rendered at the conclusion thereof. The recent Fourth District Court of Appeals case Lenist Key v. State of Florida illustrates how courts handle alleged jury misconduct.
In Key, after deliberations had begun and at the conclusion of the day an employee of the state prosecutor’s office overheard two jurors discussing evidence produced at the trial after the jury had ended its deliberations for the day. This occurred despite the fact that the court had earlier communicated an admonition not to discuss the evidence or deliberate with one another unless all jurors were present. The trial court called the jurors in for questioning one by one. A female juror confessed that she had indeed communicated with another juror about the case out of the presence of the other jurors but believed that it was okay because she was only discussing the case with another juror.
The appellate court in this case found that the trial court did not even need to conduct jury interviews as there was no evidence that more than one juror had discussed the case outside the presence of the other jurors (the other juror with whom the female juror communicated denied discussing the case with her, and the employee who overheard the conversation could not tell if only one juror or both were engaged in discussing the case). In any event, the appellate court found that there was no evidence that any prejudice to the defendant as no evidence suggested the juror mentioned any evidence or testimony other than that which was produced at trial.
Seek Help from an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Part of your Miami criminal defense attorney’s job is to safeguard your rights at trial – including your right to have your case determined by a jury comprised of fair and impartial individuals who follow the instructions and orders of the court. To ensure your rights are safeguarded, you need an aggressive and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer on your side. Attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner represents Floridians who have been charged with serious criminal acts. Contact his office for assistance and representation by calling (305) 670-9919 today.