August 31, 2012

FUGGETABOUTIT! FAILING TO GIVE A REASONABLE DOUBT INSTRUCTION - NOT A BIG DEAL SAYS CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT!

In this strange, strange case, the judge failed to tell the jurors that they could only convict the
defendant of the charged gang offense if they found it had been proved
beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court admits that this is federal constitutional error. But they say that itis not structural error requiring reversal, it's subject to a harmless error test. They find harmless error, because the court did give reasonable doubt instructions on a second count.

Justice Liu writes a searing dissent (joined by Kennard), calling the majority's position "mystifying," and "contrary to common sense," for all the good that does.

People v. Aranda; 2012 DJ DAR 11840; DJ, 8/28/12; Cal. Supremes

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January 25, 2011

JURORS CANNOT EXPERIMENT-CASE REVERSED

A deliberating juror in this case decided to conduct his own experiment on the way the alleged shooting occurred, using a broomstick. The juror was home at the time of the experiment.

The law specifically prohibits jurors from conducting their own experiments to evaluate evidence. Most courts have found a way to conclude that what a juror did really wasn't an experiment or that there was no prejudice.

Not this court. This California Court of Appeal concludes that this was an experiment and it did prejudice this defendant. Reversed. People v. Vigil; 2011 DJ DAR 1292; DJ, 1/25/11; C/A 3rd

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January 25, 2011

JURY MISCONDUCT ISSUE BLOWN-SWEAR IN YOUR JURORS OR LOSE

Wow. So many time we suspect that juror miscondcut exists, but we just can't prove it. Here's a sad case of actually being able to prove juror misconduct, and still losing the day.

During the jury's deliberations, one of the jurors used his iPhone to find a definition of reasonable doubt and shared that definition with the rest of the jurors. (Amazing. They get a jury instruction on this and they still need to Google it. SO much for promising to follow court instructions)

This is really obvious jury misconduct. But at the hearing on the motion for a new trial, the parties stipulated to unsworn statements of the jurors. The California Court of Appeal says that juror statements relating to jury misconduct must be sworn. They remand so a proper hearing can be conducted.

People v. Bryant; 2011 DJ DAR 1263; DJ, 1/25/11; C/A 2nd, Div. 5

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