Can Trial Judge Reveal His Opinion to the Jury ?
In Texas, a trial judge must also must refrain from making any remark calculated to convey to the jury his opinion of the case.
TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. art 38.05 provides:
In ruling upon the admissibility of evidence, the judge shall not discuss or comment upon the weight of the same or its bearing in the case, but shall simply decide whether or not it is admissible; nor shall he, at any stage of the proceeding previous to the return of the verdict, make any remark calculated to convey to the jury his opinion of the case.
As the Court explained:
"Jurors are prone to seize with alacrity upon any conduct or language of the trial judge which they may interpret as shedding light upon his view of the weight of the evidence, or the merits of the issues involved."
Lagrone, 89 Tex. Crim. at 615-16, 209 S.W. at 415; see also Harrell v. State, 120 Tex.Crim. 359, 361, 47 S.W.2d 311, 311 (1932) ("to the jury, the language and the conduct of the trial court have a special and peculiar weight"); Davis v. State, 114 Tex. Crim. 72, 74, 24 S.W.2d 417, 418 (1929) (quoting Lagrone); Linton v. State, 106 Tex. Crim. 165, 166, 291 S.W. 250, 251 (1927) ("trial judges should be very guarded in their verbal statements or comments upon the testimony to and in the presence and hearing of the jury in order to avoid impressing the jury with the idea that the court entertained any impressions of the case which he wished them to know, and putting before them matters which should not enter into or affect their deliberation").
Thus, as an obvious example, a judge cannot tell a jury during guilt-innocence that it would reach the punishment phase the next day because the only reasonable inference for the jury is that the defendant's guilt had been established in the judge's mind.
Jones v. State, 788 S.W.2d 834, 835 (Tex.App. - Dallas 1990, no pet.)(during a break in deliberations at guilt-innocence, the court said, "Why don't we take a break and give it up for the evening. How does that sound? We have to go into the second phase tomorrow so we wouldn't be able to finish.... the second phase of the trial is going to be the punishment. It will probably be fairly short, probably fifteen minutes, probably twenty at the longest").