Tag: juror misconduct

Juror internet research again causes criminal conviction to be overturned

Child molester’s conviction vacated because juror read articles about victim’s alleged injuries.

Lockwood v. State, 2010 WL 3529416 (Nev., September 3, 2010)

Last week it was manslaughter. This week it’s child molestation.

Defendant was convicted on multiple counts of the heinous crime of sexual assault of a child under the age of sixteen. He moved for a new trial when he learned that the jury foreperson did some internet research on the nature of the injuries suffered by the victim. The trial court denied the motion for a new trial, but the Nevada supreme court overturned the conviction on the basis of the juror misconduct.

To be successful on a motion for new trial, the defendant had to show (1) the occurrence of juror misconduct, and (2) that the misconduct was prejudicial.

The court held that although independent research by a juror generally would not give rise to the presumption of prejudice, in this case, the independent research did rise to that level.

The jury foreperson consulted eight to ten internet articles on the nature of the victim’s injuries over the course of forty-five minutes and shared her research with the rest of the jury during deliberations. The court held that by conducting her own research and relaying that information to the rest of the jury, the foreperson engaged in misconduct that was prejudicial.

The information related directly to whether it was possible that the victim was assaulted. Moreover, by sharing that information, the foreperson might have bolstered the credibility of both the victim and the State’s expert witness and thereby infected the deliberations such that there was a “reasonable probability that the information affected the verdict.”

iPhone using juror causes manslaughter conviction to be overturned

Tapanes v. State, — So.3d —, 2010 WL 3488709 (Fla.App. 4 Dist. September 8, 2010) [Opinion (PDF)]

Defendant was accused of killing his new neighbor and was indicted for murder. The jury convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

One of the key concepts in the case, and mentioned specifically in the jury instructions, was whether the defenant acted with “prudence” in his dealings with the victim.

During a break from deliberations, the jury foreperson used his iPhone to access Encarta and look up the word “prudence”. Adding to this misdeed, the foreperson shared this information with the other jurors.

Based on this misconduct, defendant filed a motion seeking a new trial, and the trial court denied that motion. So defendant sought review with the Court of Appeal of Florida. On appeal, the court reversed, holding that the defendant was entitled to a new trial.

The appellate court observed that the concept of “prudence” was one that could have been key to the jury’s deliberations. Using the smartphone in this way was analogous to using a dictionary, and that conduct has generally been prohibited in juror deliberations. The appellate court found that at the very least, it could “not say that there [was] no reasonable possibility that the . . . misconduct . . . did not affect the verdict in this case.”

Ed. note: If the jury foreperson was savvy enough to use an iPhone, why on earth was he consulting Encarta? Hello, 1995 called – it wants its web pages back.

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