Skyer was convicted of a felony. Before his sentencing, his defense attorney received a telephone call from a juror who said that several members of the jury had taken drugs and consumed alcohol at various times throughout the trial. Skyler wanted they jurors dismissed. Defense attorneys filed a motion to interview the jurors. The trial court denied these motions, saying they are barred by Rule 606(b). Skyler appeals saying that not allowing evidence of jury misconduct violates his right to a competent jury trial.
1. Was the trial correct in denying these motions? 2. What factors would you need to consider in order to make this decision?
Yes, I think the motion should have been granted. It's ridiculous that jurors themselves admitted to misconduct (or to having seen it, which is the same thing) and there was nothing that could be done. I would say definitely appeal the appellate decision.
Although human beings are fallible, the jury system is based on trusting that the men/women who serve agree to the best of their abilities to listen, evaluate, and arrive at the right decision. If we can not trust in this, then the jury system is worthless.
Even if the condemnation of some of the jury members is based on the testimony of another juror, it should be heard. What if the accusations are true? What if the jury members were unable to make that right decision because they were incapacitated? I would like to place the judge in the seat iof the defendant and see if he would want to carry out an inquiry.
Hearsay is not really the issue. It is making sure that defendant receives a fair trial and verdict. How can that happen with the doubt that the jury was unable to do its work? Misconduct of the jury--grounds for an investigation to serve justice. Our jury system depends on it.
It seems strange that the trial court would deny the motion for misconduct based on the facts presented; and one would think this would be grounds for a new trial or a reversal of any verdict by an appeals court. The only scenario I can imagine in which the judge would deny such a motion is if the judge believed that any verdict would be in the defendant's favor, which would render the issue moot. If this were the case and the defendant was convicted, then defense counsel should renew his motion for a new trial.
Hearsay is not necessarily an element here. Hearsay testimony is only testimony offered for the truth of the matter asserted, and there are many exceptions to that rule. In any instance, the defendant could move to have the juror who called his attorney interviewed by the trial judge. This would remove any suggestion of hearsay. If the juror is not known, the judge could poll jury members individually about contact with defense counsel which is, in itself improper juror conduct. Ay problems jurors have with other members must necessarily be addressed to the trial judge, not to participants in the trial.