Jury Misconduct

People are human. They have biases, prejudices, preconceived notions, and they can make serious errors. In a criminal case in California, inappropriate conduct by a juror could undermine a defendant’s legally protected right to a fair trial. You can file a criminal appeal in California on the basis of jury misconduct. 

You Have a Right to a Fair Trial by an Impartial Jury 

First and foremost, it is crucial that you understand your rights. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees all people facing a criminal prosecution the right to “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” Wrongdoing on the part of one or more jurors could constitute a violation of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights. A criminal conviction can be appealed on the grounds of juror misconduct. 

Jury Misconduct Takes Many Different Forms

As a criminal case begins in California, the members of the jury are generally given comprehensive instructions about what exactly they should (and should not) do related to the case. Under California Penal Code § 1122 PC, the jury will receive instructions from the criminal court regarding “its basic functions, duties, and conduct.” Juror misconduct occurs when one or more members of the jury violates the instructions. Some notable examples of jury misconduct in California include: 

  • Speaking to outside parties about the case at hand; 
  • Conducting unapproved, independent research about the case;
  • Conspiring with other members of the jury in an inappropriate manner; and
  • Purposeful concealment of personal beliefs that are relevant to the individual’s ability to act as an impartial member of the jury. 

A Finding of Juror Misconduct Does Not Guarantee a New Trial—Must be Prejudicial

Unfortunately, jury misconduct happens in more cases than many people realize. A defendant absolutely retains the right to appeal their case because of wrongful conduct by a juror. That being said, proving juror misconduct does not necessarily guarantee a defendant a right to a new trial. Instead, a defendant can only get a new trial on the grounds of jury misconduct in California if the wrongful conduct in question creates an “incurable prejudice.”In California, there is a rebuttable presumption that juror misconduct is prejudicial against a defendant. However, the prosecution can rebut the presumption if they can prove that: 

  • There is no prejudice against the defendant; or
  • Any prejudice is immaterial as it creates no actual harm. 

A defendant can file a motion for a new trial if their conviction was caused, at least in part, due to a tainted jury. The court will have to determine if juror misconduct occurred. If so, the court will always need to assess if the misconduct in question was prejudicial to the defendant. 

Contact an Experienced Appellate Lawyer in California  

At The Appellate Law Firm, our California appellate lawyers are strong, effective advocates for justice. If you have questions about appealing a criminal case on the grounds of jury misconduct, we can help. Call us now or reach out to us using our online contact form to schedule your confidential consultation. We provide representation in criminal appeals throughout California.

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