Friday, July 17, 2020

People v. Barton (Cal. Ct. App. - July 17, 2020)

You've got to be careful when discharging a juror for his or her alleged failure to deliberate.  It's hard to distinguish between someone who simply believes what she believes -- notwithstanding the views of the 11 other jurors -- and someone who's refusing to deliberate.  Especially since it's just human nature for a holdout juror to feel like the other 11 are "ganging up" on her and hence withdraw to at least some degree.  If 11 people keep asking me hour after hour to explain my view, and I feel like I've done so more than competently, I may well react negatively to them saying things like (as here) "Just tell me yes or no . . . ."  After all, as Juror No. 12 said here, "I'm not the one on trial."

Justice Huffman and the panel ultimately conclude that the discharge of the juror here was not okay.  That seems right to me.  Was the holdout juror miffed?  I'm sure she was.  She she at some point not feel like participating at the detailed level that the other jurors demanded?  Probably.  But she was still willing to talk and deliberate.  That's all that's required.  Sometimes it's hard to explain why you find one person credible and another person not credible.  At some point it's perfectly okay to say:  "I've already told you, again and again, why I have the view I do.  I can't explain it any better than that."

I understand that there's a downside in having to try a person again.  But there's also a downside in allowing a holdout juror to be coerced, or having her discharged (as here) when the other jurors are upset that she won't change her mind and say she's accordingly not "willing" to deliberate.

So it's a careful balance.  And as between coercing a guilty verdict and potentially wasting some time and money on a new trial, my thumb's on the scale of doing the latter.