Jury Misconduct in Colorado

Jury misconduct occurs when some form of wrongdoing occurs by a member of a Colorado jury.

Types of Misconduct

Misconduct by jurors includes:

  • talking about the case to people outside of the jury;
  • doing their own research about the case;
  • refusing to deliberate;
  • lies during jury questioning;
  • making decisions based on bias, such as racism, sexism, or stereotyping;
  • purposely concealing personal beliefs or experiences that influence the juror's ability to be impartial;
  • jurors conducting experiments or visiting the scene of an accident or crime; or
  • purposeful failure by any juror to follow the court's instructions.

Remedies for Jury Misconduct

If jury misconduct occurs, certain remedies exist to protect the rights of a criminal defendant. These include:

  • dismissal of the individual juror and replacement with an alternate juror;
  • instructions from the judge to "cure" whatever problem has arisen (if the problem is minor); or
  • dismissal of the entire jury panel; or
  • declare a mistrial (either dismissing the charge(s) or ordering a retrial of the case).

Ultimately, the Colorado judge has the discretion about whether or not the jury engaged in misconduct and how to handle the case moving forward.

Motions for New Trial & Appeal

If jury misconduct occurs, but the jury returns a guilty verdict, the defendant still has options.

Below, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about jury misconduct for Colorado residents:

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Jury misconduct occurs when some form of wrongdoing occurs by a member of a Colorado jury.

1. What is jury misconduct in Colorado criminal cases?

Jury misconduct occurs when some form of wrongdoing occurs by a member of a Colorado jury or by someone and his or her conduct involves a juror. 1

Jury misconduct can occur as the result of:

  • wrongful actions taken by members of the jury; or
  • someone whose actions attempt to influence the jury or interfere with its purpose.

2. What types of jury misconduct occur in criminal cases?

Misconduct by jurors includes:

  • talking about the case to people outside of the jury;
  • doing their own research about the case;
  • refusing to deliberate;
  • improper influence of juror's religious beliefs;
  • lies during jury questioning;
  • making decisions based on bias, such as racism, sexism, or stereotyping;
  • purposely concealing personal beliefs or experiences that influence the juror's ability to be impartial;
  • jurors conducting experiments or visiting the scene of an accident or crime; or
  • purposeful failure by any juror to follow the court's instructions.

2.1 Why are jurors not allowed to conduct their own research?

Jurors are expected to receive instruction and evidence through the court proceedings only and not through "extra-judicial" means. Any research outside the courtroom may be grounds for dismissal of the juror or even the case.

"Research" by a juror includes:

  • using google to look up a defendant;
  • looking at court records to learn a defendant's criminal history;
  • speaking with witnesses outside of court;
  • looking up a witness's credentials;
  • conducting experiments or reenactments; or
  • visiting the scene of a crime or accident.2

2.2 What happens if a juror is determined to be biased against the defendant?

Bias can occur in multiple ways and can have a significant impact on a criminal defendant's rights. Bias includes but is not limited to:

  • racism;
  • bias or stereotyping of certain ethnicities;
  • bias against those of a particular religion;
  • sexism; or
  • bias against a particular profession (i.e., hates all prostitutes, hates police officers, etc.).

When a juror is biased, he or she makes decisions based on his or her own personal feelings and beliefs, rather than evidence. This is not permissible and may be grounds for a new trial or juror dismissal.

2.3 When can a juror's religious beliefs influence him or her?

A person's religious beliefs cannot be used to influence his or her decision in such a way as to counteract justice. All jurors must follow the law and the instructions of the jury. He or she may not allow the juror's own religious beliefs to influence the decision making of that juror or any others.

Example: In a murder trial, a juror brought in a Bible to the jury room with marked passages that discussed how the death penalty was appropriate for all murderers. That juror pointed out and read the passages to the other jurors in an attempt to influence their decision regarding the death penalty and the verdict. The death sentence decided upon by the jury was vacated and a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed instead. 3

3. What can the court do if jury misconduct occurs?

If jury misconduct occurs, certain remedies exist to protect the rights of a criminal defendant. These include:

  • dismissal of the individual juror and replacement with an alternate juror;
  • instructions from the judge to "cure" whatever problem has arisen (if the problem is minor); or
  • dismissal of the entire jury panel; or
  • declare a mistrial (either dismissing the charge(s) or ordering a retrial of the case).

Ultimately, the Colorado judge has the discretion about whether the jury engaged in misconduct and how to handle the case moving forward.

3.1 When will a judge "cure" jury misconduct?

If the violation is minor, and in no way affected the case, the judge can issue what is called a "curative instruction." This is a statement by the judge which is meant to fix any problems caused by a juror's minor misconduct.

3.2 When will the judge dismiss a single juror?

When a juror has committed some type of wrongful act, but that act has not influenced the rest of the jury, that single juror can be replaced with one of the alternates.

3.3 When will the entire panel be dismissed and a mistrial be declared?

Getting a mistrial is a much higher burden to show that the misconduct has influenced the jury in such a way that a new trial must be had. If there is a "reasonable possibility that the misconduct affected the jury's verdict." 4

4. If the jury convicts me, can I file a motion for a new trial or appeal?

Every criminal defendant convicted of a crime is allowed to file a motion for a new trial. The motion must be in writing and meet all of the requirements of a valid motion.

If granted, a new trial will occur. If denied, the conviction stands, but an appeal can be filed.

If the motion for new trial is denied, the defendant can file an appeal with the higher court. A successful appeal may result in a new trial or dismissal of the charges against you.

 

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Call us for help...

For questions about the jury misconduct in Colorado or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities. For cases in California, please see our article on jury misconduct in California criminal cases.


Legal References:

  1. Wiser v. People, 732 P.2d 1139 (1987) (describing the objective test for determining whether juror misconduct has occurred in a particular case).
  2. People v. Holt, 266 P.3d 442 (2011) (juror conducted extra-judicial research outside the hearing of the court; conduct determined not to have influenced the rest of the jury).
  3. People v. Harlan, 109 P.3d 616 (2005) (juror improperly influenced the jury by bringing in a bible to convince jurors that the death penalty was appropriate in the case).
  4. Same as 1. See also Owen v. Duckworth, 727 F.2d 643, 646 (1984).

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