Here’s an interesting case: Janet Sartain was not charged criminally but was named in a wrongful death suit brought by the victim’s mother. In that civil case, the jury seems to have decided to use its verdict to make sure that Ms. Sartain was adequately punished; juror declarations stated that they needed to “send her a message” that she should have been prosecuted. Ms. Sartain’s attorney is crying foul and seeking a new trial based on juror misconduct, using jury declarations to support the motion.
Here are some basics on juror declarations:
- Juror declarations are admissible “to the extent they describe overt acts constituting jury misconduct, but they are inadmissible to the extent that they describe the effect of any event on a juror’s subjective reasoning process.” Barboni v Tuomi (2012) 210 CA4th 340, 349, 148 CR3d 581.
- Juror declarations won’t be considered on appeal if they should have been, but were not, filed in the trial court in support of a motion for a new trial.
- When juror declarations are in conflict, consider requesting a formal evidentiary hearing.
In addition to juror declarations showing misconduct, you and your client must file separate “no knowledge” declarations, i.e., declarations showing that neither the party nor the party’s attorney was aware of the misbehavior until after the verdict. “No knowledge” declarations (or affidavits) aren’t necessary when the alleged juror misconduct occurs after jury deliberations have begun, because counsel couldn’t have been aware of misconduct occurring during the jury’s secret deliberations.
For everything you need to know about jury management, from voir dire through remedies for juror misconduct, turn to CEB’s California Trial Practice: Civil Procedure During Trial, chap 17.
Related CEB blog posts:
- Get Your Jury Instructions Right
- Do You Know When to Use Jury Questionnaires?
- New Law Sends Tweeting Jurors to Jail
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