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Sleeping Jurors: Judge Did Not Abuse Her Discretion When She Did Not Dismiss A Sleeping Juror During Deliberations


Appeal convictions judge allows sleeping juror to continue serving on jury

People v.  Herring

19 NY3d 1094

New York Court of Appeals

Decided on: October 30, 2012

The Judge Did Not Dismiss A Sleeping Juror During Deliberations And Allowed Her To Continue Serving On The Jury.

Summary: Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate term of 32 years to life imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that the trial Jude failed to respond properly to one of the jurors sleeping during deliberations and that she was unfit to serve on the jury. The Judge informed the juror if she was capable of fulfilling her duties as a sworn juror and was capable of serving as a juror. The juror informed the Judge that she was fit to serve on that jury and recharged the jury on how to conduct themselves during deliberations.

The judge denied Defendant’s request for a discharge of that juror and a mistrial because the juror asserted that she was fit to serve on that jury. The Appellate Division affirmed and held that the County Court, under the circumstances of this case, did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant’s motion to discharge the juror and for a mistrial based on alleged inattentiveness of that juror. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

See Also: The Corroboration Rule: CPL § 60.50 Provides That A Defendant Can Not Be Convicted Of A Crime Based Solely On His Own Confession

Issue: Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it decided that a juror who had been sleeping during deliberations was fit to continue as a sitting juror.

Holding: The Court of Appeals held that the Judge did not abuse her discretion when she decided that the juror was fit to serve on the jury. The Judge informed the juror in open court if the juror was capable of fulfilling her duties as a sworn juror and is capable of serving as a juror, the juror informed her she was fit to serve on the jury.

Facts: Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of 32 years imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial Jude failed to respond properly to one of the jurors sleeping during deliberations and she was unfit to serve on the jury. The Judge informed the juror if she was capable of fulfilling her duties as a sworn juror and was capable of serving as a juror, and she replied by telling the Judge that she was fit to serve on that jury.

     The Judge denied Defendant’s request for a discharge of that juror and a mistrial. The Appellate Division affirmed and held that the County Court, under the circumstances of this case, did not abuse its discretion when in denied Defendant’s motion to discharge the juror and for a mistrial based on alleged inattentiveness of that juror. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Legal Analysis: The Court of Appeals held that, while there are certain circumstances where a jurors behavior during deliberations renders that juror unqualified, the Judge in this case did not abuse her discretion when she decided that the juror was fit to serve on the jury. The Judge learned of a potential problem when the juror approached her that another juror was sleeping during deliberations. She informed defense counsel that she would ask the juror if she was suffering from a significant illness that was preventing her from fulfilling her duties as a sworn juror and is capable of serving as a juror. The judge, in open court, asked one of the jurors if she might have been sleeping during deliberations; the juror stated very clearly that her behavior would not continue and she was fit to serve on the jury.

The Judge refused to inquire any further questions as to who is participating during deliberations because it would invade the privacy and the province of that jury. She also recharged the jury on how to conduct themselves during deliberations. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division.


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