The jury system is the cornerstone of the criminal justice system. Twelve (or six for misdemeanor cases) jurors from the community are thought to be the fairest arbiters. There are many rules jurors, judges and attorneys must follow to ensure the integrity of our jury system. These rules include:
- Secrecy of jury deliberations,
- No communications between attorneys and jurors outside the courtroom,
- No jury discussion of the evidence presented or the case until the start of deliberation.
- No review of news coverage or social media posts by jurors.
What is New York Misconduct by a Juror?
In some situations, improper conduct by jurors may constitute a crime and can lead to an arrest or prosecution for a Misconduct by a Juror charge. The New York Misconduct by a Juror charge involves accepting payment for:
- Providing information concerning a judicial proceeding, OR
- Giving a vote, or opinion, judgment, judgment in favor or against a certain party.
There are two different New York Misconduct by a Juror charge. Specifically, they are:
- New York Misconduct by a Juror in the First Degree (PL 215.30), AND
- New York Misconduct by a Juror in the Second Degree (PL 215.28).
These differ because one charge involves accepting payment for voting a certain way, while the other simply involves the sharing of the information. The difference in these two charges is explained below in more detail.
New York Misconduct by a Juror in the Second Degree
Misconduct by a Juror in the Second Degree is codified in New York Penal Law Section 215.28, Under New York Penal Law Section 215.28, a person is guilty of misconduct by a juror in the second degree when:
- In relation to an action or proceeding pending or about to be brought before him and prior to discharge,
- S/he accepts or agrees to accept any payment or benefit for himself or for a third person,
- In consideration for supplying any information concerning such action or proceeding.
In order to convict someone of this charge, the prosecutor is required to prove all three of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sentencing and Penalties for Misconduct by a Juror in the Second Degree
New York Misconduct by a Juror in the Second Degree is a violation. As such, this charge is punishable by up to 15 days in jail. Practically speaking, this charge will result in a sentence to time served, even if time served is just a few hours.
Under New York Law, a violation is not a crime and will not result in a permanent record. Therefore, even if you are found guilty of juror misconduct or accept a plea to this charge, you will not have a criminal record.
New York Misconduct by a Juror in the First Degree
The most serious of juror misconduct charges is Misconduct by a Juror in the First Degree. This charge is codified under Penal Law Section 215.30. Under New York Penal Law Section 215.30, a juror is guilty of Misconduct by a Juror in the First Degree when:
- In relation to an action or proceeding pending or about to be brought before him,
- S/he agrees to give a vote, opinion, judgment, decision or report for or against any party to such action or proceeding.
In order to convict someone of the New York Misconduct by a Juror charge, both elements need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sentencing and Penalties for New York Misconduct by a Juror in the First Degree
Misconduct by a Juror in the First Degree is a Class “A” misdemeanor. As such, this charge is punishable by:
- Up to 1 year in prison;
- Conditional Discharge (with conditions imposed by the sentencing court);
- Unconditional Discharge (no conditions imposed by the sentencing court);
- Time Served.
Setting Aside the Verdict: Consequences of Juror Misconduct
As the Tennessee Supreme Court stated State v. Smith, “like judges, jurors must be—and must be perceived to be—disinterested and impartial.” In addition to criminal prosecution for juror misconduct involving the sharing information about the judicial proceedings or accepting payment in exchange for voting a certain way, there may be consequences relating to the outcome of the case.
Under New York Law, juror misconduct can result in setting aside the verdict. This can either be done before sentencing through a Criminal Procedure Law Section 330.30 motion, or after sentencing through a CPL 440.40 motion.
Examples of Verdicts Set Aside Because of Juror Misconduct
In the following cases, the Court set aside verdicts in criminal cases because of Juror Misconduct:
- People v. Neulander (2019) – homicide verdict set aside because during the trial one of the jurors sent and received hundreds of text messages about the case and accessed local media websites that were covering the trial.
- People v. McGregor (2019) – Attempted Murder verdict set aside because a juror was attracted to the Government’s witness and sought to develop a relationship with that witness during jury deliberations.
How Frequent Are Prosecutions for Juror Misconduct?
The prosecutions of juror misconduct are rare. Even in People v. Neulander, a juror who sent over 7,000 text messages about the trial, then proceeded to delete the messages and lie to the court was not prosecuted for Juror Misconduct. Nonetheless, the integrity of the jury system is an upmost concern and the Penal Law contains the charges to prosecute someone criminally.
Contact Top Rated Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you or your loved one has been charged with New York Misconduct by a Juror charge, you need experienced defense counsel by your side. Furthermore, if you are considering filing a CPL 330.30 or CPL 440.40 motion, you should do so with counsel, as you frequently only have one opportunity to file such motion. We can help. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.