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Understanding juror misconduct in Washington State

On Behalf of | May 10, 2023 | CRIMINAL LAW - Criminal Appeals

The American criminal justice system bases its credibility and ability to deliver fair justice on the integrity of jurors. Unfortunately, many people in Washington still face unfair trials due to juror misconduct. But there may be ways to prevent or correct this problem.

Examples of juror misconduct

In its essence, juror misconduct involves any juror that, for whatever reason, fails to follow the judge’s instructions or behaves in a manner inconsistent with their duty to deliver fair justice. This behavior is not always purposeful; sometimes, a juror may not be aware that they are acting out of order.

Juror misconduct can manifest in the form of:

  • Talking about the case with third parties like the media, friends, family or other jurors outside of the official trial proceedings
  • Concealing information during the jury selection process that would have disqualified them from being on the jury
  • Using independent research or evidence to influence their verdict
  • Attempting to influence other jurors’ decision-making processes
  • Refusing to participate in the trial or deliberation process

Consequences for juror misconduct

If a judge discovers that any jury members have engaged in misconduct, it could lead to a mistrial and require another round of proceedings. This can be inconvenient and costly for all parties involved. Criminal law also considers juror misconduct contempt of court, which means that if found guilty, jurors may be subject to sanctions such as fines or jail time.

What to do if juror misconduct occurs in Washington State

If you believe that juror misconduct occurred during your trial, you can file a motion for a new trial or an appeal. Your criminal defense attorney will help you gather evidence to support your claim and get the best possible outcome.

Another alternative is to speak with the judge overseeing the case. They may be able to investigate and correct any errors made due to juror misconduct.

Ultimately, jurors must understand their duty and remain aware of what constitutes misconduct to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens providing justice. It is also important for people facing criminal charges to understand their rights and legal options if juror misconduct occurs. Getting a fair trial is the basic pillar of a successful justice system.