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Name: People v. Anzalone
Case #: S192536
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 04/15/2013

Under Penal Code section 1149, the jury must be queried as to whether they have agreed upon a verdict, but failure to follow this procedure does not constitute structural error. After deliberating the jury informed the bailiff they had reached a verdict and then returned to the courtroom. On the court’s direction, the verdict forms were handed to the clerk who read the verdict. On appeal, the appellate court agreed with appellant’s contention that the court’s failure to comply with section 1149 violated his state constitutional right to a unanimous verdict and reversed. The Supreme Court here reversed the Court of Appeal’s judgment. Initially, the court observed that appellant forfeited her claim to this issue by failing to object at trial but opted to address the issue because of its importance. Under section 1149, when the jury returns after reaching a verdict, the court must ask if “they have agreed upon their verdict, and if the foreman answers in the affirmative, they must, on being required, declare the same.” The trial court did not comply with this statute because neither the court nor the clerk asked the foreperson or the other members of the jury whether they agreed to the verdict or sought the foreperson’s affirmation. Under the circumstances of this case, however, the error was not structural and did not require per se reversal. Instead, the court’s noncompliance with section 1149 was a procedural error subject to harmless error review and the error was plainly harmless. Here, there was no indication that the jury was not unanimous or that the court’s technical error resulted in an unfair trial.