Substituting Juror After Deliberations Start is Error
- March 19, 2013
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Defendant was convicted of murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a weapon and hindering apprehension. Defendant appealed his conviction on the grounds that an alternate juror was seated after more than 6 days of deliberations. The importance of an impartial jury cannot be overstated. The right to a jury made up of disinterested citizens is a critical component of the criminal justice system. Although a judge is expected to be an impartial trier of fact and the prosecutor is charged with the duty of fairness in the prosecution of a defendant, they are nonetheless employed by the very system seeking to convict the defendant. In a matter so important as to deprive a defendant of liberty and opportunity fairness and impartialilty is critical and cannot be deemed met by the substitution of an alternate juror who may be easily influenced by others advantaged by 6 days of deliberations. This fact is especially evident when the jury, which had been previously deadlocked for 6 days prior to the substitution, found the defendant guilty on the fourth day of deliberations after the substitution. The court, in State v. Ross, found the mere fact that the jury was instructed to start over with deliberations when the alternate juror was substituted for an ill juror does not rise to the level of fairness defendant is entitled to when facing such substantial charges. Little will have a more serious impact on your life than a murder charge. If you are facing serious criminal charges you should seek an experienced attorney immediately to protect your rights. For more information on criminal matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney regarding your specific matter.