Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, February 22, 2024


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Dismissal of Bellicose Juror Results in Conviction Reversal

Making Up Mind at Outset, Not Considering Other Jurors’ Views, Does Not Constitute Refusal to Deliberate, Court of Appeal Holds; Says Some Participation in Discussions Precludes Banishment From Panel


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district has reversed the conviction of a man for elder abuse because the lone hold-out juror was ousted from the panel after other jurors complained during discussions that she was quarrelsome, insulting, and closed-minded.

According to one juror, Juror No. 2 proclaimed at the outset of the deliberations:

“I’ve basically made up my mind.  Don’t show me anything.  I don’t want to see any more evidence.”

The foreperson reported that she had advised:

“You guys are not going to persuade me.”

After speaking with each of the other jurors, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Manuel Almada disqualified Juror No. 2 under Penal Code §1089, which says:

“If at any time, whether before or after the final submission of the case to the jury, a juror… is found to be unable to perform his or her duty, or if a juror requests a discharge and good cause appears therefor, the court may order the juror to be discharged….”

Trial Judge’s View

Almada explained:

“It appears that the jurors are of the opinion that Juror No. 2 from the outset has refused to deliberate, and it’s beyond a mere disagreement on what the evidence shows but is a disregard to examining what the evidence actually showed and applying that to the law as it has been instructed in this case.”

He added:

“[T]he court...does find that this juror can no longer serve as there is a demonstrable reality that she is not deliberating and has not deliberated essentially from the outset in this matter....”

Adams’s Opinion

Reversal came Tuesday in an unpublished opinion by Justice Rashida A. Adams of Div. Three. She wrote:

“[T]hat a juror makes up his or her mind about a case before deliberations begin, or very early in the deliberations process, does not alone amount to a failure to deliberate….Further, a juror in this position does not necessarily have to engage in ‘formal discussions; of issues the juror has already considered and decided.”

There must simply be “some degree of deliberation” by the juror, Adams said. She observed:

“The question here, then, is whether the objective evidence reflects Juror No. 2 not only came to a fixed conclusion about the case early in the proceedings, but also that she failed entirely to participate in the deliberative process.”

The justice noted that recitations by jurors indicated that the woman did engage in some discussions, though evincing antagonism, reviewed some of the evidence, and asked for definitions of terms in the instructions.

“This demonstrated some level of participation, even if it lacked the quality or substance other jurors felt was necessary,” she declared.

No Good Cause

Adams remarked:

“[A]lthough the record shows Juror No. 2 was ‘argumentative,’ ‘uncooperative,’ ‘condescending,’ ‘combative,’ ‘rude,’ ‘disrespectful,’ defensive, and emotional, this was not good cause for removal.”

Jurors asserted that Juror No. 2 repeatedly alluded to extraneous facts. In light of the vagueness of the allegations, Adams said, “[w]e cannot conclude that Juror No. 2’s disqualification because of a purported reliance on extrinsic facts appeared on the record as a demonstrable reality.

She noted that once Juror No. 2 was replaced with an alternate, the jury came in with a guilty verdict in less than half an hour. Adams drew the conclusion that reversal is required because it is reasonably probable that had the hold-out juror not been erroneously dismissed, there would have been an outcome more favorable to the defendant, Rodney Gaines: a mistrial.

The case is People v. Gaines, B326805.


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