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Alternate juror’s comment doesn’t entitle man to new trial

August 22, 2012

A trial court properly determined an alternate juror’s alleged conduct posed only a remote risk of prejudice, and the judge’s admonishment of that juror was not an error, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

During Jorge Henriquez’s trial for Class D felony resisting law enforcement, the bailiff told Marion Superior Judge Marc Rothenberg that she believed she heard the alternate juror say “you need to be able to live with your decision” in the jury room. Rothenberg called the alternate juror into the courtroom and told him that he is not to take part in the deliberations or influence the jury in any way and is not to communicate with the jury. The jury convicted Henriquez.

The appellate court looked at Henriquez’s claim that he was denied his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury using the fundamental error rule since Henriquez’s attorney did not object at trial to the judge’s actions. The appellate court rejected Henriquez’s claim his case is like Lindsey v. State, 260 Ind. 295 N.E.2d 819 (1973), and found it more like Henri v. Curto, 908 N.E.2d 196 (Ind. 2009). In Henri, the alternate juror allegedly used noises and hand gestures to communicate with the jury and also did exercises during deliberations, which caused the jurors to laugh. The Indiana Supreme Court found the alternate juror’s behavior immature, but it didn’t rise to the level of misconduct that would be injurious to Henri.

In the instant case, the trial court, “in its proper discretion, determined that the alternate’s alleged conduct posed only a remote risk of prejudice, if any at all,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote in Jorge Henriquez v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1201-CR-6. “Therefore, no full scale inquiry was warranted.”

There was no error, fundamental or otherwise, and Henriquez didn’t meet his burden of showing that the alleged misconduct was gross and probably injurious to him, Sharpnack wrote.

 

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