Monroe v. City of Seattle, No. 76478-1-I, 2018 WL 3738995 (Wash. Ct. App. Aug. 6, 2018).
Summary: Nilgün Aykent Zahour analyzes the juror misconduct issues in the case of Monroe v. City of Seattle, No. 76478-1-I, 2018 WL 3738995 (Wash. Ct. App. Aug. 6, 2018). The issues we’re going to discuss are suspected juror misconduct and the burden of proof, a juror’s change of mind, the jury’s collective thought processes and speculation.
Hi, this is Nilgün Zahour from SM JUROR and welcome to The SM JUROR Podcast on Juror Misconduct Law where our motto is, “Don’t let juror misconduct taint your verdict.” We analyze current state and federal juror misconduct cases and provide attorneys with the strategies to identify, preserve and advance juror misconduct issues at trial and on appeal.
And, today we’re going to be looking at the case of Monroe v. City of Seattle, which is out of Washington. The issues we’re going to discuss are suspected juror misconduct and the burden of proof, a juror’s change of mind, the jury’s collective thought processes and speculation. Glad you’re listening because the only evidence you want the jury to hear is in the courtroom. Now’s let’s take a look at Monroe v. City of Seattle.
Hi everyone. This is Nilgün Zahour from SM JUROR, and in today’s podcast, we’re going to be looking at the juror misconduct issues in the case Monroe v. City of Seattle, which is out of Washington.
This case was decided on August 6, 2018, and I’ll be sure to put the full citation of the case in our episode notes. And, if you can, please leave us a review because we want your feedback and want to provide value to our listeners. And of course, if you were involved in a trial where juror misconduct was an issue, please contact us so we can interview you for our podcast.
Now, the issue we’re going to tackle today is this: A juror suspects the jury deliberated without him while he was in the bathroom. Is this juror misconduct? You may be surprised.
Here, a jury rendered its verdict in favor of the defendant city in this disability discrimination lawsuit. The plaintiff moved for a new trial based on juror misconduct, arguing that jury deliberations occurred while an African American juror was in the bathroom. The motion was based on the allegations of this juror, who described the following scenario:
He and two individuals were in favor of the plaintiff. He left to go to the bathroom and was gone a few minutes. As he was returning, he heard the jurors talking, but could not hear what they said. When he returned, he said two jurors had “guilty” expressions on their faces. Someone said, “Let’s take a vote,” and the juror who was in favor of the plaintiff’s accommodation claim, changed her vote and then the foreperson hit the buzzer indicating that the jury reached a verdict.
The juror, who had been in the bathroom, stated that he felt the outcome was rigged and the group changed the other juror’s mind outside of his presence while he was in the bathroom. The motion for new trial was denied and the plaintiff appealed.
The appellate court agreed with the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion for new trial, as the juror misconduct claim was based on speculation. And of course, speculation does not meet the burden of proof. Additionally, individual or collective thought processes cannot be used to impeach the verdict. So, a post-verdict statement explaining how the jury reached a verdict cannot be used in support of a motion for new trial.
So let’s look at the juror’s allegations, which are filled with speculation. First, the allegations are based on his suspicion alone. There is no hard evidence any misconduct. He did not hear an actual discussion. He did not have knowledge that a discussion even took place. His suspicion was based on the expressions of some of the juror’s faces. He didn’t even actually talk to them. This is not a strong showing of juror misconduct.
Now, I want to make a couple of additional points:
Here, the juror who supposedly changed her mind was not identified or contacted. Normally, it would be important to get to the source of any alleged juror misconduct, but in this circumstance, it would not make a difference because the collective thoughts of the jurors and how they reached a verdict cannot be used to impeach or attack the verdict. Before you can talk to that juror to try to support your motion for new trial based on juror misconduct, there has to be some showing that the juror was exposed to extraneous evidence.
However, it would be important to move to interview this juror to see if the juror was coerced in any way. You’re going to have to show the judge that’s it’s necessary to interview the juror because of possible coercion (based on what the juror in the bathroom said) and then what’s important is to get the ruling on the record relative to your motion. But, under these circumstances, I don’t believe the trial court would grant your request because there’s no evidence of coercion, and in fact, the allegations are filled with speculation.
And, there doesn’t appear to be any exposure to extraneous evidence, so you can’t get the jurors to talk about what was discussed during deliberations.
And finally, the plaintiff makes a note that this was a disability discrimination case and the complaining juror who went to the bathroom was African American, as well as the juror who changed her mind. But there’s no evidence that race played any role in how the jury reached its verdict, so again, it’s highly unlikely that your motion to interview the juror who changed her mind would be granted. As it stands, you have a juror who was speculating about what happened. There isn’t even any evidence that any inappropriate conduct influenced the changing of the vote. So the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied plaintiff’s motion for a new trial.
And that’s it for our analysis of the juror misconduct issues in this case. If you like what you hear and want more, please subscribe to our podcast and leave us a review.
And also check out our latest CLE on juror misconduct called: “Facebook & Today’s Juror: 2017’s 10 Biggest Juror Misconduct Events,” and use the code “podcast25”, that’s podcast two-five, for $25 off our regular CLE price exclusively for our podcast listeners. This CLE is accredited and/or approved for 1.5 general credit hours in 30 states and I’ll put the link to the registration page in our episode notes.
That’s it for today. This is Nilgün Zahour from SM JUROR, and remember, don’t let juror misconduct taint your verdict. See you next time.
Remember to use the coupon code “podcast25”, exclusively for our podcast listeners, for $25 off our CLE entitled, “Facebook & Today’s Juror: 2017’s 10 Biggest Juror Misconduct Events” which has been accredited & approved for 1.5 general CLE credit hours in 30 states. Click here to register for our CLE.
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