- April 20, 2017
- by Ben Adams
The Sonoma County criminal defense attorneys at the Santa Rosa CA law firm of Adams Fietz have reviewed the case of People v. Wismer, filed April 20, 2017. In this case, the Court of Appeal considered the issue of jury misconduct.
A standard instruction given in every California criminal case tells jurors they are not to do any independent research or "conduct any tests or experiments." (CALCRIM No. 201.) The instruction is based on fundamental principles of due process, because if jurors conduct independent investigation, the parties are deprived of the ability to understand and address the results of that investigation, whatever they may be. Independent investigation and experimentation is error when it provides the jury with additional evidence never presented at trial. It is evidence the parties never saw, much less had the opportunity to object or respond to.
As the Supreme Court explained in People v. Collins, supra, 49 Cal.4th 175, "[n]ot every jury experiment constitutes misconduct. Improper experiments are those that allow the jury to discover new evidence by delving into areas not examined during trial. The distinction between proper and improper jury conduct turns on this difference. The jury may weigh and evaluate the evidence it has received. It is entitled to scrutinize that evidence, subjecting it to careful consideration by testing all reasonable inferences. It may reexamine the evidence in a slightly different context as long as that evaluation is within the ' "scope and purview of the evidence." ' What the jury cannot do is conduct a new investigation going beyond the evidence admitted." (Id. at p. 249, quoting People v. Bogle (1995) 41 Cal.App.4th 770, 781.) And this is true regardless whether the new evidence is generated outside the courthouse or inside the jury deliberation room. (Collins, at pp. 248-249.)
When jury misconduct has occurred, prejudice to the defendant is presumed and the burden is on the prosecution to rebut the presumption by showing that the misconduct did not affect the jury's decision. (People v. Honeycutt (1977) 20 Cal.3d 150, 156.)
If you have been charged with a crime in Sonoma County, the Santa Rosa CA criminal defense attorneys at Adams Fietz are experienced trial lawyers. Call us for a free consultation.