Juror Removal Because of Emotional Distress

The notion that jury deliberations are absolutely off-limits to investigation for jury misconduct is incompatible with the analysis in People v. Collins Cal. 3d 687, 131 Cal. Rptr. 782, 552 P.2d 742. the trial court there excused a juror after "questioning her extensively," based on her professed inability to deliberate. ( Id. at p. 696.) On appeal the defendant argued that her claims of emotional distress did not furnish sufficient grounds for removal because "inquiry into the possible existence of good cause for dismissal of a juror after deliberations have begun must be designed to elicit a factual basis to support such good cause having an existence independent of the deliberative process of the jury." ( Id. at pp. 695-696, italics added.) The Supreme Court rejected this contention, holding that the trial court permissibly found the juror unable to perform her duties, whether or not that inability flowed from an emotional reaction to the evidence. Indeed in Perez v. Marshall, supra, 119 F.3d 1422, the Ninth Circuit recently approved an extensive inquiry into jury deliberations. A defendant convicted in a California court sought federal habeas relief on the ground that the trial court had excused a juror who reported that she entertained reasonable doubts about the defendant's guilt but was unable to continue with deliberations. The trial court had described the juror as "an emotional wreck" after questioning her and the foreperson about "what had transpired in the jury room." ( Id. at p. 1425.) The Ninth Circuit found no constitutional violation either in finding cause to discharge the juror, or in "excusing the juror when it knew that she was the lone juror holding out for an acquittal." ( Id. at p. 1426.) The court quoted with approval the district court's observation that " 'nothing in the record indicates that the trial court's discretion was clouded by the desire to have an unanimous guilty verdict.' " ( Id. at p. 1427.) "In fact," the Ninth Circuit continued, "the record shows that the district sic; superior court was forced to act, not because of Robles's status as a holdout juror, but because of Robles's emotional inability to continue performing the essential function of a juror--deliberation." (Ibid.)