Daley v. J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc., 187 Conn. App. 587, 203 A.3d 635 (2019).
Summary: Nilgün Aykent Zahour analyzes the juror misconduct issues in Daley v. J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc., 187 Conn. App. 587, 203 A.3d 635 (2019). The issue we’re going to discuss is whether the trial court erred in declining to conduct a post-verdict evidentiary hearing to determine whether a juror, who suffered memory gaps with possible Alzheimer’s disease, was competent to serve on the jury.
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, in Episode 22 we’re going to be looking at the case of Daley v. J.B. Hunt Transport, which is out Connecticut.
The issue we’re going to discuss is whether the trial court erred in declining to conduct a post-verdict evidentiary hearing to determine whether a juror, who suffered memory gaps with possible Alzheimer’s disease, was competent to serve on the jury.
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 Daley v. J.B. Hunt Transport.
Hi everyone. This is Nilgün Zahour from SM JUROR, and today, in Episode 22, we’re going to be looking at the case of Daley v. J.B. Hunt Transport which is out of Connecticut. This case was decided on February 5, 2019 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 I picked this case for our podcast today because I think it presents a really interesting scenario. In this wrongful termination trial which lasted seven days, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him damages. After the verdict was read, the jury was polled and each juror confirmed the verdict was their verdict. So far, so good, right?
But the next day, Juror R.L. appeared at the courthouse where the case had been tried and notified the court staff that she was ready to continue jury deliberations. The trial judge spoke with Juror R. L. and told her that the jury concluded its deliberations and reminded her of the amount of the verdict. Juror R.L. became visibly upset because she did not remember that deliberations ended or that the jury returned a verdict with damages.
The trial court held a status conference with the attorneys a few days later and apprised them of Juror R.L.’s meeting with the court. Additionally, the trial court shared a letter that Juror R.L. wrote to the court which indicated that she was surprised that the jury returned a verdict. She indicated she did not have a history of “memory gaps” but was going to be evaluated for possible dementia or Alzheimer’s disease because she was 64 years old and her mother had been diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s disease at sixty years of age. Juror R.L. also indicated that she disagreed with the amount of the verdict.
Approximately one month later, defendant filed a motion for new trial on the grounds that Juror R.L. was incompetent during trial to serve on the jury, or in the alternative, moved that the trial court conduct an evidentiary hearing to evaluate Juror R.L.’s competency. The trial court denied all aspects of the motion finding that Juror R.L. was found to be an acceptable juror during jury selection and that no one challenged her competency during trial, jury deliberations or the return and acceptance of the jury verdict. The trial court also found that Juror R.L, like the other jurors, individually confirmed the verdict when the court polled the jurors. The trial court also found that a juror’s failure to remember deliberations that resulted in a verdict was not juror misconduct.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to conduct a post-verdict evidentiary hearing to determine whether Juror R.L. was competent to serve as a juror during the trial.
So let’s break this down a little. Does a juror’s failure to remember deliberations that resulted in a verdict constitute juror misconduct? The trial court said no, it did not, and since it did not constitute juror misconduct, the trial court reasoned that it had no duty to inquire into the issue of whether Juror R.L. was competent to serve on the jury because the juror’s memory problem was a post-verdict event.
And guess what? There was no Connecticut case law on this particular issue. Ultimately, the Appellate Court relied on federal law indicating “that there must be a preliminary showing of strong evidence that a juror likely was incompetent during his or her jury service before a trial court is required to conduct a full post-verdict inquiry into the juror’s competency.”
So, the issue becomes, was Juror R.L competent to serve on the jury? The defendants argued that there was sufficient evidence in the record to indicate Juror R.L. was not competent to serve on the jury such that the trial court was required to conduct a post-verdict evidentiary hearing to inquire about Juror R. L.’s competency, and the appellate court agreed.
Let’s look at what’s in the record. We have a verdict and, through jury polling, we have confirmation by each juror, including Juror R.L. that the verdict was theirs.
Next, the day after the verdict, we have Juror R.L. showing up for jury duty. Additionally, she personally informed the judge that she did not recall that the jury concluded its deliberations or returned a verdict. She also wrote the judge a letter saying she was surprised that they returned a verdict and that she experienced a “memory gap” about returning a verdict. She also was concerned she may have experienced mental lapses during the trial. In her letter, she told the judge she was going to undergo a medical evaluation to determine whether she had dementia or Alzheimer’s disease because her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the juror’s current age.
The critical pieces of evidence supporting the defendant’s argument are the juror’s statements to the judge and the juror’s letter to the judge. Both pieces of evidence focus on the juror’s memory gaps while serving on the jury. So the appellate court reversed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion seeking a new trial or alternatively seeking an evidentiary hearing to determine Juror R.L.’s competency and remanded the case for further proceedings on that issue.
Now remember, how the trial court chooses to conduct the evidentiary hearing is within its discretion, so the inquiry may start with Juror R.L. testifying about certain memory gaps she may have experienced during the course of trial.
Perhaps the defendant may want to call other jurors to testify about whether they noticed any memory issues with Juror R.L., but remember, the trial court, in its discretion, could deny such a request, particularly since there was no indication by any jury member during trial that Juror R.L. presented a problem.
Additionally, there is a delicate balance that has to take place because the Court and the parties cannot inquire about the discussions during deliberations, meaning how the jury arrived at its verdict. So, my educated guess is that the trial court would not allow any jurors to testify unless the defendant can demonstrate evidence specifically about Juror R.L.’s purported inability to remember what occurred during trial or during deliberations. Also, once the trial court conducts its evidentiary hearing, it must then make a finding on whether or not Juror R.L. was competent to serve on the jury and then finally rule on defendant’s motion to seek a new trial.
So, if you are presented with such an issue, let’s talk about certain strategies you can use in presenting your argument.
First, move for a new trial or mistrial, but alternatively move that the trial court conduct an evidentiary hearing addressing a particular juror’s competency. Your basis would be that a sitting juror was not competent to serve on the jury and as a result, your client was denied a fair trial.
Second, your motion must present a preliminary showing of strong evidence of a juror’s incompetency. Here, defendant utilized the conversations the juror had with the trial court and the juror’s letter to the trial court. Now relative to the juror’s conversations with the trial court, understand that the parties were apprised of this conversation when the trial court called them about the situation. You will need a court reporter to document the conversation for the record. If you don’t have one at the moment, advise the judge that you would like to get one in order that the conversation be memorialized for the Record on Appeal.
Third, see if the juror would be willing to talk to your investigator and whether there were additional pieces of evidence supporting incompetency and the need to hold an evidentiary hearing.
And finally, remember that this is a delicate and discrete issue. Proceed with the utmost caution and respect while serving the interests of your client. This includes whether you decide to contact other jurors about the involved juror’s memory problems. This could open up a pandora’s box of problems. Don’t let your zeal for representing your client lead to embarrassment or humiliation of a juror by specifically targeting that juror in asking other jurors whether they noticed a memory issue. I would not recommend that. Instead, focus on the comments and statements made by the juror to the trial court.
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” for $25 off our regular CLE price exclusively for our podcast listeners. This CLE is accredited/approved for 1.5 general credit hours in multiple 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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