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Jury Bias Results in New Trial for NJ Defendant

26
Apr
2010

by in Criminal Appeals

State v. Jamal R. Taylor, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-4447-08T4 (March 2, 2010) – Order granting new trial based on juror misconduct affirmed.

“The court found [juror] S.W’s comments [to State’s witness Detective Fine during a break in the trial], and the points of view expressed therein, had the capacity of undermining the reliability of the jury’s verdict. Specifically, the comments ‘you did fine’ and either ‘the defense lawyer was kind of crazy’ or ‘defense attorneys can be assholes’ revealed that S.W. had ‘a preconceived notion about criminal defense attorneys, a bias, a predisposition that certainly should have been revealed during voir dire.’…

Here, we agree with the trial court that S.W.’s bias or hostility against either this particular defense counsel, or criminal defense attorneys as a class, if disclosed during voir dire, would have most likely resulted in his exclusion from this jury panel based on counsel’s exercise of one of her preemptory challenges. Indeed, such bias would have constituted sufficient grounds to excuse S.W. for cause….

[T]he State’s argument that the trial court erred in failing to interrogate the other eleven jurors to ascertain whether S.W.’s bias tainted the entire jury… ignores defendant’s constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury, which requires that all twelve jurors adhere to their oath to scrupulously follow the court’s instructions on the law and to base their ultimate judgment only on the evidence presented in court.”

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