Internet research by juror no basis for mistrial in Kentucky court

Juror’s research into definitions of culpable mental states did not affect criminal defendant’s substantial rights.

Appellant Ross-Carter was convicted of child abuse and sentenced to six years in prison. She appealed her conviction on several grounds, one of them being that the trial court should have granted her a mistrial after one of the jurors conducted independent legal research on the Internet.

One evening while the trial was in recess, the juror looked up the definitions of culpable mental states on the Internet on her home computer and printed them. Upon learning of this, the judge interviewed the juror and determined that the juror had not shared this information with any of the other jurors. Furthermore, the definitions she had printed out were “precisely” the same as those in the jury instructions. Ross-Carter’s counsel moved for a mistrial, but the motion was denied.

On appeal, the court affirmed the denial of the motion for mistrial. The appellate court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying a mistrial, which is an “extreme remedy” and that there was no manifest necessity requiring it in this situation. Considering the record as a whole it did not appear that either the outcome of the trial or the defendant’s substantial rights were affected, and therefore the motion was properly denied.

Ross-Carter v. Commonwealth, (Not Reported in S.W.3d), 2005 WL 678539 (Ky.App., March 25, 2005.