Court cases are rarely as exciting as they are made out to be in television shows and movies. They can be exceedingly tedious; so much so that one or more of the jurors may fall asleep. If this happens during your case, it may be grounds for a mistrial. Here's what you should know about this issue.
Right to a Fair Trial
Defendants have the right to be tried before an impartial jury, so anything that prejudices a juror (or the entire jury) against the defendant may result in an unfair trial. A juror falling asleep during a critical court event has the potential to prejudice that person against the defendant because he or she may not have all the information needed to make a fair decision in the case.
The act of actually falling asleep or even just nodding off doesn't rise to the level required to call for the juror's dismissal or a mistrial by itself, though. You have to show
For instance, the juror falls asleep during a key witness' testimony. The judge may consider ending the proceedings if there wasn't any other way for the juror to hear what the witness said. However, this example highlights a major challenge inherent in this issue. Today, everything in the courtroom is recorded in some way (e.g. stenographer, security cameras). The circumstances would have to be so extraordinary that the juror couldn't be brought up to speed of what he or she missed, which could make it very tough to secure a mistrial or retrial based on this issue.
Bringing the Issue Up in Court
Just because it may be difficult to prove a sleeping juror may harm your case doesn't mean you shouldn't bring the issue to the attention to the court when it happens. The judge will question the juror about his or her level of attentiveness. Depending on what the person says, you may be given an opportunity to present evidence (e.g. testimony from other jurors) to the court the individual was sleeping. Be aware, the prosecutor will also be given a chance to chime in on the issue.
The court will evaluate the claim, and attempt to remedy the problem if it finds misconduct did occur. Even if you don't secure a mistrial, the juror may be dismissed and someone who may be more sympathetic to you called in.
For more information about this issue or help with a criminal case, contact a firm such as The Fitzpatrick Law Firm.Share
20 January 2017
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