A Juror Yelling Out the word “Guilty!” in the Jury Room is not Grounds for Mistrial

A Discharged juror who told the other members of the jury that the defendant was guilty was not cause for a mistrial, says the The Ohio Fifth Appellate District.

The case is State v. Johnson, 2012-Ohio-3227.

The Defendant was charged with felonious assault with a repeat violent offender specification.

During voir dire, a break was taken prior to the impaneling of the jury. Before the break, the trial court gave the usual admonitions to the jury, and specifically stated, “Do not form or express any opinion on the case,” as well as “Do not discuss the case among yourselves or with anyone else.”

However, one juror yelled out the word “Guilty!” in the jury room. No potential juror told the court, when questioned, that the statement had affected their ability to fairly decide the case.

The appeals court noted that the granting of a mistrial is necessary when a fair trial is no longer possible. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that a defendant accused of a state criminal violation shall be tried before a panel of fair and impartial jurors. The law is clear that a jury is obligated to decide a case solely on the evidence, and any communication or contact outside the courtroom or jury room about the matter at trial between a juror and another person, and any independent inquiry or experiment by a juror concerning the evidence or the law, constitutes juror misconduct. In addition, juror misconduct includes a juror forming an opinion as to guilt or innocence before all the evidence is presented.

However, a new trial is not required every time a juror has been placed in a potentially compromising situation. In this case, the Fifth District concluded that a mistrial was not necessary.  The trial court told the jurors about the juror’s removal. The trial judge instructed the jury that “in the United States system of justice there is a presumption of innocence, and a person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden is on the prosecution to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, and at this point in time that presumption of innocence exists.”  He also told the jury that he had concluded “that all of you understand that these individuals are innocent until proven guilty, and that [the] Juror’s behavior and comment has not influenced you in any way, shape or form with respect to these proceedings; may be as to your opinion of him but not to these proceedings.”

 

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