Yelton v. State

In Yelton v. State, 50 Ala. App. 168, 170-71, 277 So. 2d 912, 915 (Ala. Crim. App. 1973), the Court of Criminal Appeals held: "Even though the sheriff's participation in the instant case did not approach the prohibited behavior in Turner v. Louisiana, . . . the error lies in allowing any association of the jury with a witness who has testified at the trial. It would undermine the basic guarantees of a jury trial to permit this kind of commingling, between jurors, and any other witness who was in a position of authority. A sheriff should not be placed in a situation where his integrity as a chief law enforcement officer of the county, and as an officer of the court, will be questioned. His testimony should come from the witness stand, unencumbered by any prejudicial suspicions which might occur when he is placed in the immediate presence of the jury." In Yelton, the sheriff gave testimony concerning evidence he found during an investigation at the scene of the crime. He also testified as to a statement made by the defendant. Upon completion of the trial, the sheriff accompanied the jurors and talked with them during supper. The Court of Criminal Appeals stated: "Although the sheriff's testimony was confined to the evidence found at the scene, his presence with the jury after the trial could have emphasized his testimony and the part he played in the trial. "Any person holding the office of sheriff is not only recognized as the symbol of that county's law, but is the law to his constituents when he speaks. It is for this reason that the testimony of such an officer may influence a jury's verdict, and the impact of his presence is increased considerably whenever he is brought into such close company with the jurors." 50 Ala. App. at 170, 277 So. 2d at 914.