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Massachusetts Supreme Court Vacates Criminal Conviction After “Visibly Shaken” Juror is Excused from Deliberations

One of the most fundamental rights of the defendant in a criminal case is the right to a trial by jury. A seasoned Cape Cod criminal defense attorney can help make sure that this and other important rights are protected. This is very important because a biased, prejudiced, or tainted juror can wreak havoc on what is supposed to be a determination by a “fair and impartial” jury of the defendant’s peers. A knowledgeable defense lawyer can also make sure that the defendant’s other constitutional and legal rights were not violated during the arrest process and, if necessary, file a motion in limine to exclude potentially inadmissible evidence.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the defendant was a man who was accused of several crimes relating to the illegal possession and improper storage of firearms and ammunition. When the matter was tried to a jury, one of the jurors was excused during deliberations because she told a court officer that she could not continue to deliberate because she was upset by other jurors being “argumentative.” The juror also mentioned that she was emotional due to health issues being suffered by some members of her family. The trial judge opted to replace the juror with an alternate, and the deliberations continued. After the defendant was found guilty, he appealed. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction. He sought further review from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Decision of the Court

The supreme court vacated the judgments entered against the defendant, concluding that the juror had been discharged for reasons that were “not purely personal” and that, thus, her dismissal was prejudicial error. The court went on to conclude that, because there was sufficient evidence for the trial court to deny the defendant’s motion for a required finding of not guilty, the appropriate thing to do was to remand the case for further proceedings.

In so holding, the supreme court noted that the jury’s deliberations had begun late one afternoon and resumed the following morning. During the jurors’ lunch break on the second day of deliberations, a court officer informed the trial court judge that the juror in question had removed herself from the jury room and was visibly shaken, saying that she could not continue as a juror. After interviewing the juror, the trial court judge had informed counsel that the juror’s distress stemmed from her views of the case. The defendant’s attorney had requested that the other jurors be questioned, theorizing that the remaining jurors may have been “bullying” the juror for her views on the case. The trial court had refused to so.

Hire an Experienced Cape Cod Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been accused of a crime, it is imperative that you hire a skilled Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer. At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, we handle both felony and misdemeanor criminal cases, including operating under the influence (OUI) cases. To schedule an appointment to learn more about how we can be of service to you, please call us at 888-262-6664 and ask for an appointment. Our offices are located in Hyannis and Plymouth. Always remember that you have the right to remain silent, and that, if you waive that right and voluntarily speak to police without an attorney present, your own statements can be used against you in court later on.