Although David Chalue was convicted on kidnapping and murder charges Friday, the reversal a day earlier of a guilty verdict by a reluctant juror could potentially improve the chances that an appeal could succeed, according to a legal scholar.
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, said appellate courts typically would be reluctant to accept an appeal based on what goes on in a jury deliberation room for fear of inhibiting a difficult process.
But if some sort of intimidation or other misconduct could be shown "inside the jury room, that could be grounds for a successful appeal," Sullivan said.
On Thursday, after three days of deliberation, the jury declared Chalue guilty. But upon being polled, one of the jurors said she did not support the guilty verdict.
After denying the defense's request for a mistrial, the judge sent the jury back into deliberations. The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict on Friday.
"Something like that is fairly unusual, but it does happen," Sullivan said. "The general rule is that the appellate courts do not go into the jury deliberation room for fear it would have a chilling effect on the jury process."
But if misconduct can be found, a request for appeal might be granted, he added.
The defense attorney requested a mistrial again on Friday before deliberations began, suggesting that there was undue influence on one of the jurors and that the jury foreman was acting out, throwing his notebook onto his chair in frustration.
A local criminal defense attorney, who wished to remain unnamed, said the judge did the right thing in this case.
"A jury deliberation is a long, involved, difficult process," he said. For someone to become upset and question the verdict "is all part of that process."
The attorney added that it was better she aired her concerns during deliberation rather than after the trial was over.
"If she had done it afterward, that would be worse, frankly." he said.
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