Monday, March 21, 2011

Failure to inquire into jury verdict

Carl Folsom won in State v. Gray, No. 101,481 (Kan. App. March 18, 2011), obtaining a new trial in a Reno County agg assault on a LEO prosecution. The district court failed to comply with Kansas statute, which requires that it confirm the jury's verdict in court (this is different than polling the jury, which was waived in this case). The COA cited a previous case (blogged about here) and held that failure to confirm the verdict in court left it without confidence of a unanimous verdict:
The reason why K.S.A. 22-3421 requires the trial court to inquire in open court whether the jury agrees with the verdict, even when the parties waive polling, is to ensure a defendant's constitutional right to a unanimous verdict and to safeguard the concept of finality with respect to the jury verdict.

"By requiring inquiry as to whether the verdict is the jury's verdict, K.S.A. 22-3421 gives jury members the opportunity to express disagreement with or dissent from the verdict in open court." In this case, the trial judge simplyasked the jury foreperson whether the jury had reached a verdict. At no point after having heard the verdict read in court were the jurors given an opportunity to express disagreement with the verdict. Therefore, asking the jury foreperson if a verdict has been reached does not accomplish the same objective as inquiring whether the verdict is the jury's verdict.

The trial court's failure to follow the statutory mandate of K.S.A. 22-3421 to inquire as to whether the verdict was the jury's verdict was reversible error. Consequently, a new trial is warranted in this case. To hold otherwise would ignore the importance of the requirements of unanimity and finality with respect to jury verdicts.
Here is coverage of the case in the Hutchinson News.

[Update: the state filed a PR on April 12, 2011.]

[Further update: the KSC denied the state's PR and the mandate issued on September 30, 2011.]

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