How To Handle Sleeping Jurors In Massachusetts

Criminal jury trials in Massachusetts and for that matter everywhere are not always at exciting as the avid follower of lawyer televisions programs might believe. There can be times where a jury trial is just downright boring. Technical evidence such as DNA or medical testimony can send the average person into lala land. Jurors want to see evidence that is juicy and graphic. They want to hear horrifying or sexy eyewitness testimonies. Some trials however simply do not involve that type of fun stuff. Instead, prosecutors and defense attorney must focus on facts and details that can put jurors to sleep. In fact, that sometimes happens. That’s right. Jurors can fall asleep. So how do Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorneys and the Massachusetts Courts handle this issue? The answer to that came out today in Commonwealth v. Dyous, 10-P-603.

Commonwealth v. Dyous, 10-P-603, May 12, 2011

In Dyous, a Larceny case, the district attorney prosecuting the case alerted the trial judge to the fact that a juror had been sleeping “quite a bit”. The judge refused to make an inquiry and claimed that she did not observe the juror actually sleeping. The defendant was convicted and this became an issue on appeal. The Massachusetts Appeals Court clarified some long standing principles regarding the right to a trial by an impartial jury. It made clear that an impartial juror must also be attentive. Once this fact is brought to the trial judge’s attention it is the obligation of that judge to take action. The judge is to conduct a voir dire to see if the juror is capable of rendering a verdict based on the evidence. Obviously, if he or she slept through part of the trial this task would be impossible. In Dyous, the Massachusetts Appeals Court found that the absence of a voir dire left serious doubts as to the juror’s attentiveness thereby compromising the verdict and requiring a reversal of the conviction.

The Law Office of Stephen Neyman handles all types of criminal defense matters and appeals of criminal convictions. Call us now at 617-263-6800 or contact us online to discuss your case.