State v. McCrimmon

In State v. McCrimmon, 187 Ariz. 169, 172, 927 P.2d 1298, 1301 (1996), the first juror polled responded, "I guess, yeah." McCrimmon, 187 Ariz. at 170, 927 P.2d at 1299. After polling the other jurors and a bench conference, the court denied a motion for mistrial. Id. The court then asked the juror for a yes or no answer, but the juror could not agree to a one-word answer. Id. The court declared a recess and, at the juror's request and with the knowledge of both counsel, had an ex parte discussion with the juror. Id. During that meeting, the judge told the juror that when the proceedings resumed he would ask her the same question and asked how she would answer. Id. She answered that "it would have to be yes" but could not say that it was beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. The court advised counsel of the conversation and reconvened the jury after lunch. Id. at 170-71, 927 P.2d at 1299-1300. The jury was reinstructed on the presumption that the defendant is innocent; that the State has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt; and that each juror had to decide the case for themselves. Id. at 171 n.2, 927 P.2d at 1300 n.2. The jury, after deliberating for two hours, again returned a guilty verdict that all agreed upon. Id. The Court, in examining the coercion issue, found that the reluctant juror had been singled out twice, that the trial court's words and actions sent her a clear message that being undecided was unacceptable and failed to tell her that her inability to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt could be a disaffirmation of the verdict. Id. at 173, 927 P.2d at 1302. The court then stated "we fear that the trial court . . . inadvertently created an atmosphere of coercion when it repeatedly communicated the implicit message to the lone hold-out juror that being undecided about a guilty verdict was unacceptable." Id. McCrimmon and other cases define when coercion may occur. First, if the jury is deadlocked, the court's inquiry into the numerical division of the split may result in coercion. Id. at 172, 927 P.2d at 1301.