Every so often, you’ll hear a story on the news about a major criminal trial that ends in a conviction — only to end up with a whole new trial because of juror misconduct.
What exactly does that mean? Frankly, it can vary from trial to trial, but there are some common situations that can lead to those kinds of allegations.
Jurors are required to be transparent and follow the court’s rules
The struggle in any major trial, particularly when the case has been all over the news, is to find a jury that’s impartial — and keep it that way. That can be a big challenge.
Sometimes misconduct occurs during voir dire, the process of jury selection itself. Potential jurors are asked questions by the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the judge to determine their fitness to serve.
If a juror lies about their biases, personal history and relationships and the information comes out later, that can lead to allegations of juror misconduct. For example, so-called “stealth jurors” sometimes lie about their knowledge of a case because they want to be chosen for jury duty so they can act like social justice warriors and make sure that a defendant is convicted.
Other things that can lead to allegations of juror misconduct include:
- Looking at news articles or listening to the pundits on CourtTV about the case
- Doing independent research on a case instead of only looking at the evidence that’s actually introduced in court
- Talking to or exchanging messages with friends or family members about the case during the trial or deliberations
- Texting or posting on social media during the trail or deliberations
- Making statements to other jurors that indicate they’ve made up their mind about a defendant’s guilt before the trial is even concluded
- Improper speculation about a defendant’s decision not to testify
These are far from the only examples that defense attorneys have encountered. When a juror engages in behavior that unfairly tilts the odds in favor of the prosecution, the information may come out days, weeks, months or even years after a verdict is passed — and it may lead to a successful appeal.
Appealing a conviction is challenging. Make sure that you have an experienced attorney by your side to advocate for your interests in the most effective way possible.