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San Francisco DUI Attorney Paul Burglin NCDD Journal Case Highlights - People v. Jones

 Posted on May 21, 2014 in DUI

Always Poll The Jury Following A Guilty Verdict!
People v. Jones (2013) No. 1-11-3586 (Unpublished)
Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Second Division.

It often seems like a waste of time and gratuitous torment, but this case demonstrates that polling a jury after a guilty verdict occasionally bears fruit.

A guilty verdict was announced by the foreperson following deliberations. The court told the jurors it was “going to ask each and every one of you whether or not that verdict was your verdict and if it's still your verdict." After polling four jurors, the following exchange occurred:

“THE COURT: Nicholas Mack, was that your verdict and is this now your verdict?

JUROR MACK: No, but yes and no.

THE COURT: Well, your answer can't be yes and no. Is that your verdict now?


THE COURT: Okay. And was that your verdict when you signed the verdict paper?


THE COURT: Okay, when you signed the verdict, that was not your verdict, a finding of guilty?

JUROR MACK: According—excuse me, according to the law, yes. But, it was other things that I felt that made him not guilty.

THE COURT: Okay. So let me ask you that question again: Was that your verdict and is this now your verdict that he is guilty?


Defendant appealed the guilty verdict on the ground that the trial judge erred in the way he questioned the juror and that the juror’s equivocal responses created doubt about the validity of the verdict.

The appellate court made the following points based on prior case law:

  • The purpose of polling a jury is to determine that the verdict accurately reflects each juror's vote and that the vote was not the result of coercion.
  • While the trial court should not turn the polling process into an opportunity for further deliberations, the court also must not hinder a juror's expression of dissent.
  • If a juror indicates some hesitancy or ambivalence in his or her answer, then the trial judge must determine the juror's present intent by affording the juror the opportunity to make an unambiguous reply as to his or her present state of mind.
  • If the court determines a juror dissents from the verdict, the proper remedy is for the trial court, on its own motion if necessary, to either direct the jury to retire for further deliberations or to discharge the jury.
  • The trial court's determination as to the voluntariness of a juror's assent to a verdict will not be set aside unless the trial court's conclusion is clearly unreasonable.

The Court affirmed the conviction, determining that the juror's response established his agreement that defendant was guilty under the law, and that the jury verdict reflected his intentions. It further determined that the complete colloquy indicated the juror was given the opportunity to dissent and ultimately stated that the guilty verdict reflected his vote. Finally, it found the trial court’s determination that the juror voluntarily assented to the verdict was reasonable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: One cannot determine the tone of the judge’s questioning from the cold transcript (well, maybe you can!), but that is the key as to whether this juror was bullied by the trial court into capitulating. The defense made a post-trial motion for a new trial, contending that the verdict was not unanimous. However, it does not appear that any objection was made to the judge’s manner of questioning as it occurred. One tactic the defense might have considered is to request an immediate recess once the juror responded, “No, but yes and no." What would you have done? Have you ever even prepared for this type of response from a juror being polled? Will you ever pass on the right to poll a jury after reading this case?

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