State ex rel. Trump v. Hott

In State ex rel. Trump v. Hott, 187 W.Va. 749, 421 S.E.2d 500 (1992), the Court concluded that extraneous statements about the defendant's prior wrongdoing made during jury deliberations could be used to impeach the jury's verdict. After the defendant in Hott was convicted of four counts of second-degree sexual assault, a juror came forward and asserted that during the second day of deliberations another juror told the entire jury panel that the defendant had previously been accused of, or convicted of, wife beating and child molestation. The juror further attested that three or four other jurors indicated that they had heard the same things about the defendant. After the juror came forward, the circuit court held a hearing and individually questioned the other jurors to determine if these statements were in fact made during the deliberations. Five of the eleven jurors questioned recalled the statements being made, but all of them indicated that the information did not affect their decision with regard to the defendant's guilt. Thereafter, the trial court indicated that it was inclined to set aside the verdict, but invited the prosecution to seek a writ of prohibition from this Court to preclude such a ruling. Upon consideration of these facts, the Court concluded in Hott that a writ of prohibition would not be issued. The Court stated that "we cannot say that the juror's statements regarding the defendant's prior misconduct were sufficiently innocuous not to be prejudicial to the defendant." Id., 187 W.Va. at 754, 421 S.E.2d at 505. The Court went on to advise the circuit court that before granting a new trial, it should consider whether the evidence against the defendant was so overwhelming that the juror's remarks were harmless.