Law School Case Brief
State v. Curtis - No. 34572-2-II, 2007 Wash. App. LEXIS 1425 (Ct. App. June 5, 2007)
Rule 1: It is universally recognized that a jury which cannot arrive at a verdict after a reasonable time may be discharged; but too quick a discharge of a hung jury violates a defendant's right to a jury verdict.
Rule 2: To obtain a new trial for juror misconduct, a party must demonstrate that a juror failed to honestly answer a material question on voir dire and then show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause.
During the deliberation of the jury, the presiding juror informed the judge that they were a “hung jury”. The judge directed the jury to continue deliberating. Defendant was convicted of first-degree sexual molestation of a child. The trial court denied his motion to vacate judgment and for a new trial. The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
Issue 1: Did the trial court err because it did not properly instruct the jury when the jury informed the judge during deliberations that it was a “hung jury” and the judge responded, “Please continue to deliberate?”
Issue 2: Did the trial court err because the jury improperly considered evidence of a juror's personal experience with sexual molestation in returning a verdict that defendant was guilty of sexually molesting a child?
Answer 1: No.
Answer 2: No.
Conclusion 1: It was not an abuse of discretion or a misstatement of the law to tell the jury to continue to deliberate. The trial court allowed the jury to deliberate for just one hour after it stated it could not reach a verdict. When called back into the courtroom, the presiding juror indicated that there was a reasonable probability that the jury could reach a decision. There was no abuse of discretion in declining to discharge the jury and order a mistrial.
Conclusion 2: Defendant could not establish that he was prejudiced by the juror's disclosure. The juror admitted prior to jury selection that she was a sexual molestation victim. It was not a basis for juror misconduct.
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