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Thread: What Should Trial Court Do About Post-Verdict Juror Letter?

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    Post What Should Trial Court Do About Post-Verdict Juror Letter?

    What Should Trial Court Do About Post-Verdict Juror Letter? -- Interesting issue. On March 11, 2020, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral argument in the case of Madora Jones, Administrator of the Estate of ReDon Jones v. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, et al., 2019-0390. The issues in the case deal with confidentiality of jury deliberations and finality of jury verdicts in civil cases.

    After a jury had trouble reaching a verdict, they were instructed to keep deliberating. Thereafter a juror had to leave and one was replaced and deliberations continued. The jury wrote again that they were deadlocked but the court instructed to keep going. Later, at 9:00 on a Friday evening, they again said they were deadlocked but the court told them to keep going and that they'd have to come back Monday if they hadn't agreed. 15 minutes later, they ruled in the Cleveland Clinic's favor.

    Counsel for Jones filed a motion for a mistrial on the following Monday. While the motion was pending, the trial court held a hearing because the court had received a letter from a juror. The juror wrote
    that the jury was frustrated by the deadlock, and some, including the author of the letter, made the decision to switch their votes after being told that they would need to return the following Monday—which the jury took to mean they could be deliberating indefinitely. The juror also wrote that if they had not been kept late on that Friday or knew that Monday would be the last day before being dismissed, votes would not have been changed. The trial court denied the motion for a mistrial. Jones appealed.

    The Appeal -- In a unanimous opinion the Eighth District Court of Appeals reversed. The Eighth District did not agree that the trial court should have sua sponte declared a mistrial but found that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Jones’ mistrial motion. Because the jury stated on several occasions that it was deadlocked, and then reached a verdict only minutes after being informed that they would need to return to continue deliberating the following week, the trial court should have granted Jones’ motion for a mistrial. The juror’s letter provides even more support for a finding of a
    mistrial because it confirms that the only reason for the verdict was to avoid further deliberation. The trial court should not have relied on Ohio Rule of Evidence 606(B) to exclude the letter from its
    consideration of Jones’ mistrial motion because Rule 606(B) precludes the juror from testifying at a later proceeding about the original verdict, which the juror who wrote the letter did not do.

    The Cleveland Clinic has appealed arguing that the CA should not inquire into the motivations of the jury's verdict absent evidence of threats, bribery or other improper conduct.

    What say you?


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    I don't know much about the law, but I've always thought requiring a jury to make a "unanimous" decision is counterproductive. I don't know why it can't be a three-quarter or four-fifths decision. Congress, local leaders, and the SCOTUS are all allowed to make decisions even if they can't reach a unanimous consensus.

    Sending a jury back to deliberate more doesn't mean jurors change their minds -- it just means those with more will power will prevail.
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    State court - civil not unanimous.
    Federal court - civil must be unanimous.
    Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect. -- Woody Hayes​

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    Quote Originally Posted by DGUtley View Post
    State court - civil not unanimous.
    Federal court - civil must be unanimous.

    Thanks. I didn't know that!
    "What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events
    affect us.”

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    The Cleveland Clinic has appealed arguing that the CA should not inquire into the motivations of the jury's verdict absent evidence of threats, bribery or other improper conduct.


    I think that sums it up fairly nicely. There are established and well founded reasons for declaring a mistrial, especially after a decision by the jury has been reached, none of which are present here.
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    I think if a jury says they can't reach a decision on twice the judge should take them at their word. I can see in the case given the jury announced they were deadlocked three times and were kept late on a Friday night. I guess that's easy to do since Judge's done have to pay jurors overtime.

    What the letter said was that jurors changed their vote, against their better judgement, when it appeared the judge would keep them imprisoned indefinitely until they did. The judge could have said they would work over the weekend but that would have inconvenienced the judge and his court's staff.

    As to your question, I think the judge should be disciplined and the verdict sat aside as not being freely and honestly reached by the jury.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FindersKeepers View Post
    I don't know much about the law, but I've always thought requiring a jury to make a "unanimous" decision is counterproductive. I don't know why it can't be a three-quarter or four-fifths decision. Congress, local leaders, and the SCOTUS are all allowed to make decisions even if they can't reach a unanimous consensus.

    Sending a jury back to deliberate more doesn't mean jurors change their minds -- it just means those with more will power will prevail.
    In a criminal case a single vote to convict shows reasonable doubt. At least, it does to me
    Liberals are a clear and present danger to our freedom and our society and our morals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DGUtley View Post
    What Should Trial Court Do About Post-Verdict Juror Letter? -- Interesting issue. On March 11, 2020, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral argument in the case of Madora Jones, Administrator of the Estate of ReDon Jones v. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, et al., 2019-0390. The issues in the case deal with confidentiality of jury deliberations and finality of jury verdicts in civil cases.

    After a jury had trouble reaching a verdict, they were instructed to keep deliberating. Thereafter a juror had to leave and one was replaced and deliberations continued. The jury wrote again that they were deadlocked but the court instructed to keep going. Later, at 9:00 on a Friday evening, they again said they were deadlocked but the court told them to keep going and that they'd have to come back Monday if they hadn't agreed. 15 minutes later, they ruled in the Cleveland Clinic's favor.

    Counsel for Jones filed a motion for a mistrial on the following Monday. While the motion was pending, the trial court held a hearing because the court had received a letter from a juror. The juror wrote
    that the jury was frustrated by the deadlock, and some, including the author of the letter, made the decision to switch their votes after being told that they would need to return the following Monday—which the jury took to mean they could be deliberating indefinitely. The juror also wrote that if they had not been kept late on that Friday or knew that Monday would be the last day before being dismissed, votes would not have been changed. The trial court denied the motion for a mistrial. Jones appealed.

    The Appeal -- In a unanimous opinion the Eighth District Court of Appeals reversed. The Eighth District did not agree that the trial court should have sua sponte declared a mistrial but found that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Jones’ mistrial motion. Because the jury stated on several occasions that it was deadlocked, and then reached a verdict only minutes after being informed that they would need to return to continue deliberating the following week, the trial court should have granted Jones’ motion for a mistrial. The juror’s letter provides even more support for a finding of a
    mistrial because it confirms that the only reason for the verdict was to avoid further deliberation. The trial court should not have relied on Ohio Rule of Evidence 606(B) to exclude the letter from its
    consideration of Jones’ mistrial motion because Rule 606(B) precludes the juror from testifying at a later proceeding about the original verdict, which the juror who wrote the letter did not do.

    The Cleveland Clinic has appealed arguing that the CA should not inquire into the motivations of the jury's verdict absent evidence of threats, bribery or other improper conduct.

    What say you?


    Attachment 28652
    Based on Proposition of Law No. 1 which defines "improper conduct" as arising only if there is competent evidence of "threats, bribes, or improper conduct" admissible under Evidence Rule 606(B) i.e. some sort of external influence on the jury, the Appellate court should have rejected the Appeal. Furthermore, the jury had deliberated only two or so hours on Friday evening and were asking to go home whereupon they were advised by the Court that they could continue or return to resume their deliberation on Monday morning so I'm not sure that one could construe that to mean that the jury was being unduly subjected to hardship and thus changed their verdict on that basis.
    "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”
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    It sounds like the judge was holding the jury in a type of contempt. Do what I want or back to the room you go.

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