In our system of justice, a jury is integral to the proper process of finding the truth. A jury panel is considered sacred and well protected, however, there are certain instances when a juror can be kicked off a trial. In California, good cause exists to discharge an impaneled juror if you find that the juror
• Cannot perform the duties of a juror. A Judge can properly dismiss a juror during deliberations who is unable to comprehend simple concepts, forgot previous votes or discussions, and was not following the law.
• Has lost the ability to render a fair, impartial, and unbiased verdict. In one recent Long Beach Criminal case a Court was proper is discharging a juror who had prejudged credibility of prosecution witnesses and who was unable to cast aside her personal bias in weighing the evidence.
• Realizes he or she cannot fairly consider the case and asks to be removed. For example a judge properly discharged a juror during a criminal trial deliberations when juror requested to be removed from jury because she could not follow oath and instruction to consider imposing death penalty.
• Has become physically or emotionally unable to continue to serve as a juror due to illness or other circumstances, including the stress of being a juror.
• Has a family emergency, e.g., a death or serious illness in the juror’s immediate family. For example in one case, a juror had good cause to be absent from trial for indefinite period to care for elderly parent, judge properly replaced juror with alternate; Also, caring for sick or injured family member constitutes “good cause” for discharge such as was the case in one appellate decision where a juror’s father being ill and near death was “good cause” for discharge.
• Has a change of or loss of job that affects juror’s ability to perform duties. A judge’s authority to discharge juror for problems related to juror’s employment is well understood.
• Repeatedly fails to appear at the court proceedings on time.
• Has declaration of a fact, based on his or her own knowledge, that could be evidence in the case.
The Court obviously has wide latitude to discharge a sitting juror, but should do so rarely, since impaneling an alternate or, in some cases, an entire jury can be a waste of judicial resources. Therefore, most Courts frown upon a juror’s discharge.