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Dozing juror should have stayed in deliberations

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A juror who gave the lone vote to acquit and eventually refused to deliberate did not meet the criteria for removal, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Scott A. Wright v. State of Indiana, 45A05-1310-CR-526, the Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of Scott Wright for Class A felony child molesting and remanded for a new trial. The COA found the Lake Superior Court erred by removing Juror 356.

Two hours after deliberations had begun, the jury informed Judge Salvador Vasquez they were deadlocked. Juror 356 voted not guilty and could not be swayed to change his vote by the other jurors.

Several times the jury panel appealed to Vasquez, who asked them to continue trying to talk. Eventually, the other jurors said Juror 356 had stopped talking and appeared to be falling asleep.

Vasquez then granted the state’s motion and replaced the juror with an alternate. Explaining his reasoning for removal, the judge said, “It’s one thing to stick to your guns, it’s another to refuse to participate in the cooperative effort of deliberation.”

The Court of Appeals ruled the juror should not have been replaced because his behavior did not create an extreme situation that warranted removal. Pointing to Riggs v. State, 809 N.E.2d 322, 327 (Ind. 2004), the appeals court reiterated the criteria established by the Indiana Supreme Court for discharging a juror during deliberations.

 “Juror 356 voted for acquittal based on his determination the victim was not credible, and he would not change his mind,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the court. “His behavior does not fall within the category the Riggs Court characterized as ‘the most extreme situations where it can be shown that the removal of the juror (1) is necessary for the integrity of the process, (2) does not prejudice the deliberations of the rest of the panel, and (3) does not impair the party’s right to a trial by jury.’”

 
 

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