Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Juror Texting During Trial -- Not Enough for a Mistrial!

A Kansas court reviewed the implications of jurors texting during a trial.

The case is State v. Mitchell.

The defendant was on trial for aggravated burglary.

During the trial, the defendant’s attorney observed one of the jurors slumped down in her seat below the rail in front of the jury box.  He could not see her hands, but presumed that she was texting.  The bailiff stated that the juror was texting during jury selection, and that her focus was down towards her lap during the trial.

The court did not grant a mistrial.  Instead, the judge admonished the jurors collectively to make sure their cell phones were turned off, not just set to vibrate.

The question became whether the juror was communicating with someone outside of the court during the trial.  In this case, because the judge did not question the juror about her actions (and the defendant did not request this), there was not enough evidence of improper communications to declare a mistrial.

The Kansas court did suggest that courts should consider prohibiting access to cell phones during all trial proceedings.  

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