You can’t have a fair jury trial unless you have a fair and impartial jury. That’s why allegations of juror misconduct are one of the issues that defendants often bring up on appeal when a trial doesn’t go their way.
If juror misconduct is found to have affected the outcome of a trial, an appellate court can order a conviction vacated or a new trial – but, what exactly counts as “misconduct?”
Common issues that can lead to claims of juror misconduct
It’s important to understand that actions don’t have to be intentional for a juror to be “tainted” as far as their ability to make impartial judgments. Some of the most common issues surrounding jurors that are raised in appeals include:
- Concealing information during the voir dire (jury selection) process that would tend to suggest a juror is biased. For example, convicted murderer Scott Peterson nearly gained a retrial because a juror claimed she had forgotten about a domestic violence incident in her own past – something that could prejudice anyone against an alleged spouse murderer.
- Obtaining information about the case from a source outside the trial, such as via news articles, podcasts, social media or blogs. A juror may easily become swayed by public sentiment, particularly if the crime has any notoriety.
- Discussing the case with third parties or amongst themselves prior to deliberations, which can cause a juror to make up their mind before they’ve even heard all the evidence.
- Simply refusing to participate in the jury negotiations in good faith because they have preconceived notions about the parties involved based on their race, gender, sexuality or social status.
If you believe that juror misconduct played a part in your conviction or your loved one’s conviction, find out what steps you need to take next.