Circumstance when a Judge Can Discharge a Sitting Juror

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.

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty five years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV regarding license suspension hearings stemming from drunk driving arrests.
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