Thursday, October 20, 2011

OUI Law - MA Law on Juror Replacement During Deliberations

In today's case the issue involved the replacement of a juror during deliberations. In Commonwealth v. Cameron, Slip Copy, 2011 WL 3341091 (Table) (Mass.App.Ct.) during jury deliberations, the trial judge dismissed a juror because of a communication problem raised by other jurors. The defendant appealed upon two grounds: (1) that the judge discharged the juror without good cause in violation of the defendant's due process rights; and (2) that the judge's failure to instruct the remaining jurors on the reason for the discharge prejudiced the defendant.

The appeals court found no error:

"The trial judge did not abuse his discretion when he removed Mr. B because he had language problems. Mr. B admitted that he was having difficulty understanding the deliberations. When the judge asked Mr. B whether he did not feel fluent enough, Mr. B's response—“To make a decide this case”—permitted the trial judge to find that Mr. B had problems with the English language. See Commonwealth v. Leftwich, 430 Mass. 865, 873 (2000) (noting that inability to perform functions of juror must be supported by record). An inability to speak and understand the English language disqualifies a person from jury service; thus it is good cause for discharge. See G.L. c. 234A, § 4; Commonwealth v. Acen, 396 Mass. 472, 479 (1986) (“It is unquestionable that an ability to speak English is a relevant and important qualification for jurors”). Additionally, the language problem was obviously personal to Mr. B and unrelated to the issues of the case."

As to instructing the other jurors as to the reason for discharge, the law on that issue in MA states:

“If a juror is discharged and an alternate substituted, the jury should be instructed not only to begin deliberations anew ... but also that the reason for discharge is entirely personal and has nothing to do with the discharged juror's views on the case or his relationship with his fellow jurors.” Commonwealth v. Connor, 392 Mass. at 845–846. However, “[a] judge is not required in every case to adhere to the precise language ... used in Commonwealth v. Connor.” Commonwealth v. Zimmerman, supra at 151. Some circumstances that surround the discharge of a deliberating juror “will leave no room for speculation as to the reason for the discharge, such that the failure to give a Connor instruction is not error.” Ibid .

The appeals court found no actual error. "This case presents the circumstances which do not require the Connor instruction. The reason for the discharge was obvious to all the jurors. The judge was informed that “several” jurors were having difficulty communicating with Mr. B. In each individual colloquy, the judge confirmed the issue by referencing a difficulty in communicating with Mr. B."

Looking for a Top DUI DWI Attorney? Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!

No comments: