A New York appellate court recently considered in an opinion whether a trial court committed a reversible error when it failed to discharge a sworn juror who, after four days of deliberations, indicated multiple times that she was unable to “separate [her] emotions from the case.” The juror also stated that she lacked the ability to decide both factual and legal issues in the matter.
The defendant was indicted for a murder in which the victim was stabbed 38 times. After the jury was excused for deliberations, the court clerk received a phone call from the juror in question, in which the juror asked what she needed to do to be excused from the trial. Next, the judge performed a substantive inquiry with the juror in the presence of the attorneys and the defendant, in which the juror repeatedly stated that she felt unable to separate her emotions from the case and that she was not fit to make certain factual and legal decisions. The exchange was lengthy and included in the court record. The defendant moved for a mistrial because the alternative jurors had already been dismissed. The judge then asked the defendant to reconsider the prosecution’s plea offer of manslaughter, finding that the juror had reached the conclusion that the defendant was guilty but was unable to carry out her duty as a juror to vote in favor of entering a guilty plea against him.