Can Alternate Jurors Replace Jurors Who Do Not Make a Decision Because They Have Reasonable Doubt Regarding Evidence ?
In Stokes v. State, 204 Ga. App. 141 (418 S.E.2d 419) (1992), after approximately thirty minutes of deliberation, the foreperson told the judge that two jurors either could not or would not "make a decision because they feel that there has not been enough evidence either way." Id. at 142.
The judge told the jury that each juror must vote, but if the two jurors would not vote, he would replace them. After returning to the jury room, the two jurors would not vote, and the court dismissed them and replaced them with two alternates. Id.
On appeal, this Court noted that the judge never inquired into the jurors' reasons for not voting and there was no showing that the jurors were in any way incapacitated. Stokes, supra.
The Court held that the trial court should have either recharged the jury on the burden of proof or declared a mistrial. Citing Peek v. Kemp, 746 F.2d 672, 681 (11th Cir. 1984), the court held that "alternate jurors do not serve to substitute for minority jurors who cannot agree with the majority," and concluded that the trial court erred because it dismissed two jurors who may have harbored reasonable doubt. Stokes, supra.