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Name: People v. Allen & Johnson
Case #: S066939
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 12/05/2011
Summary

Both the guilt and penalty phase judgments are reversed when the trial court improperly discharges a juror during guilt phase deliberations. Juror 11 was discharged after two other jurors made a report and there was an inquiry as to whether he had prejudged the case. Because of the importance of juror independence, the review involves a more comprehensive and less deferential review than the typical abuse of discretion review. The heightened standard is required to protect the defendant’s fundamental right to due process and a fair trial. The replacement of the juror was based on two statements made during deliberations. Juror 11 stated the prosecution had not made its case at the time it rested and he argued that a witness was not credible in his claim that an Hispanic co-worker punched his employment timecard for him, given his belief that Hispanics would never cheat on work records. The statement about the prosecutor’s case, as an expression of strong views during deliberations, did not establish prejudgment under Penal Code section 1122, subdivision (b). He cast an undecided vote on the fifth day of deliberations and he participated in the deliberative process. That he was unimpressed by the strength of the evidence and unpersuaded by his colleagues’ assertions did not amount to prejudgment. The juror’s positive opinion about the reliability of Hispanics in the workplace was a permissible application of the juror’s life experience, not an impermissible use of evidence outside the record. The jury was instructed that they could reject a witness’ testimony if they found it to be false on a material point and that is the credibility evaluation reflected in his statement. Neither statement was a proper basis for discharge of the juror.