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Trial court properly retained 1 juror, dismissed other

November 21, 2012

A defendant who argued that a Marion Superior Court should have dismissed a juror after she stood near the defendant and his attorney briefly during a recess, but should not have replaced the juror who claimed she wasn’t comfortable rendering a decision, lost before the Court of Appeals Wednesday.

Romero Leslie appealed his conviction of Class B felony dealing in cocaine, arguing fundamental error by the trial court when it denied his request to dismiss juror Kim Shiflette. During a recess, Shiflette left the jury room unaccompanied in search of the bailiff and stood in a hallway near Leslie and his attorney for about 10 seconds before Leslie and his attorney saw her and stopped talking. The two were discussing trial strategy.

After a lengthy discussion with the court, Master Commissioner Peggy R. Hart allowed Shiflette to stay on the jury. Leslie did not object. Shiflette said she did not hear the conversation between Leslie and his attorney. But on appeal, he argued Hart committed fundamental error by allowing Shiflette to remain a juror.

There was no direct contact between Shiflette and Leslie or his attorney, and she said she didn’t recognize the defendant or his lead attorney in the hallway, Judge Edward Najam wrote in Romero Leslie v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1203-CR-135.

Leslie also claimed on appeal Hart should not have replaced Kermetha Brown with an alternate juror over his objection. Shortly after deliberations began, Brown wrote the court a note saying she was not comfortable deciding whether Leslie is guilty. Brown repeatedly told Hart that she was uncomfortable making a decision and she couldn’t render a decision.

The trial court determined that Brown’s inability to make a decision as a juror affected the integrity of the process, Najam wrote, and Leslie didn’t show how replacing her prejudiced the deliberations of the rest of the panel or impaired his right to a trial by jury.


 

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