Deliberating Juror's Emotions Rendered Her Grossly Disqualified, Court of Appeals Finds
On June 22, 2017, finding that the trial court wrongly refused defense counsel’s application to dismiss a deliberating juror as “grossly unqualified” under CPL 270.35(1), the Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the first-degree manslaughter conviction of CAL client D.S. On the fourth day of deliberations, the juror sought to speak to the trial court. In the ensuing colloquy, the juror consistently maintained that she was unable to obey her oath and “separate her emotions from her ability to deliberate.” She could not, she insisted, “reach a verdict based solely on the evidence presented at trial and the law.” For its part, the trial court insisted that the juror had to deliberate fairly, because her removal would force a mistrial.
Stressing that whether a seated juror was grossly unqualified constituted “a legal determination,” the Court of Appeals observed that the juror had not declared an actual bias. The Court’s case law, however, did not require actual bias for a “grossly unqualified” determination. The Court also stated that, while “a declaration regarding emotions alone does not render a juror grossly unqualified,” this juror had declared that her emotions had disabled her from deliberating fairly and impartially. D.S. was represented by CAL attorney Susan Salomon.