Purpose of Polling the Jury
The purpose of polling the jury is to ensure that the jurors unanimously agree with and consent to the verdict at the time it is rendered. If the jury is unanimous at the time the verdict is returned, the fact that some of them change their minds at any time thereafter is of no consequence; the verdict rendered remains valid and must be upheld
In State v. Black, 328 N.C. 191, 400 S.E.2d 398 (1991), the jury returned its verdict and the court recessed for lunch prior to commencement of the sentencing hearing.
When proceedings resumed after the lunch recess, the defendant moved to poll the jury.
In concluding the jury had dispersed as of the time the motion was made and thus finding no error, the Court reasoned:
The purpose of polling the jury is to ensure that the jurors unanimously agree with and consent to the verdict at the time it is rendered.
The rationale behind requiring that any polling of the jury be before dispersal is to ensure that nothing extraneous to the jury's deliberations can cause any of the jurors to change their minds. Once a juror leaves the courtroom after the verdict is returned and goes into the streets, despite her best efforts to shield herself, she still can be affected by improper outside influences.
At that point, such improper outside influences may take the form of things the juror sees or hears or may be limited to the juror's own weighing of the evidence and the law independently and in the absence of other members of the jury. In other words, once the jury is dispersed after rendering its verdict and later called back, it is not the same jury that rendered the verdict. Id. at 198, 400 S.E.2d at 402-03.