Saturday, May 29, 2010

CA Supreme Court: Jury Experiment Not Prejudicial

The California Supreme Court upheld a death sentence where one of the jurors conducted an outside experiment that he shared with fellow jurors. The juror made a diagram on a computer which was reviewed during deliberations. Originally, the trial judge granted a new penalty phase trial based on juror misconduct.

According to the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, the district attorney appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge and remanded the case for sentencing. The case made its way to the California Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld Scott Forrest Collins’ convictions and sentence on charges of first degree murder, robbery, and kidnapping for robbery, with special circumstances of kidnapping-murder and robbery-murder. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge sentence Collins to death for the murder.

Justice Carol Corrigan, writing for the high court, cited a series of cases dating back a century and explained that a jury room experiment is only improper if it involves matters extrinsic to the evidence presented in the courtroom, according to the News-Enterprise.

“Within the range discussed by Dr. Sherry [the pathologist who conducted the autopsy] and the variety of possible physical positions, jurors conducted a demonstration to evaluate alternatives that could have produced the downward trajectory of Rose’s wound,” wrote Justice Corrigan. “The jurors directed Juror C.C. to assume various positions. They specifically examined the prosecution’s theory that (victim) was ‘executed’ while on his knees, and also considered whether (victim) was shot while standing with his head tilted back. Their evaluation critically considered the evidence presented. It did not invade a new field.”

According to the News-Enterprise, Corrigan also said there was nothing improper about a juror making a diagram to confirm what his own experiences told him about the evidence.

Justice Corrigan further wrote,“Juror G.B’s computer use was part of his individual contemplation of the evidence after the matter had been submitted to the jury.... The jury’s demonstration in the deliberation room was simply a ‘more critical examination’ of the evidence admitted....In neither situation did jurors receive extrinsic evidence. As a result, there was no basis for the trial court’s conclusion that jurors committed misconduct, and thus no basis for granting of a new penalty phase trial.”

To read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment