Is a party prejudiced when a juror voices that she feels threatened by a staring audience member and is not discharged?

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The following is SM JUROR’s slideshare analysis of Wolfe v. Peery, No. 115CV00957DADSABHC, 2016 WL 7655159

(E.D. Cal. May 6, 2016), report and recommendation adopted sub nom. Wolfe v. Perry, No. 115CV00957DADSABHC, 2016 WL 4899738 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 15, 2016).

The juror misconduct issue involved the denial of defendant’s motion for mistrial or having Juror 104 excused, when it was discovered that Juror 104 told her father she was a juror in a gang case and that she felt nervous or threatened by a staring audience member, who turned out to be the mother of defendant’s girlfriend. The court specifically noted that it did not observe any inappropriate behavior from any audience member. Upon further inquiry by the court, Juror 104 indicated that she and other jurors felt “threatened” or “nervous” about being jurors in a gang case and having the audience member stare. She also indicated she did not talk to her father about the facts of the case and that she could remain fair and impartial. The court then individually interviewed each juror about any fears they may have in serving on the jury. Each juror said they could remain fair and impartial and could render a decision based on their instructions and the law. The defense then moved for a mistrial, arguing that the jury was tainted by the court’s inquiry of whether they were afraid of the audience member. The court denied the motion, finding that every juror indicated that they could fulfill their duties and be fair and impartial and that they would not be influenced by “this small issue.”

View our slideshare to see how the appellate court handled the juror misconduct issue, including the trial court’s discretion in making any inquiry into possible juror misconduct, and the circumstances when a motion for mistrial should be granted.

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