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Name: People v. Collins
Case #: S058537
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 05/27/2010

During deliberations, the jury may use an exhibit according to its nature and carry out experiments within the lines of offered evidence that do not invade new fields. In this death penalty case, the prosecutor introduced evidence suggesting that appellant executed the victim by shooting him in the back of the head as he knelt. In closing argument, the prosecutor emphasized her belief that the victim was pleading for his life. Relying on trial testimony of the defendant’s height, one of the jurors, a veteran of the Viet Nam war, utilized his home computer to work out height patterns and trajectories from the shooter’s presumed location to the victim’s presumed position. During deliberations, the jury attempted to recreate the shooting using string and a protractor. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the trial court found juror misconduct and granted the defense motion for a new penalty trial. The appellate court reversed and the Supreme Court affirmed the reversal. The Court observed that once the jury is deliberating, there is nothing to prohibit a single juror from individually contemplating the evidence while separated from other jurors and nothing to prohibit jurors from conducting experiments with evidence. Jurors have wide latitude in the consideration of the evidence and an experiment is improper only if it allows the jury to discover evidence by considering areas not examined during trial. The Court likened the single juror’s use of the computer as a tool that assisted him in thinking about the evidence, similar to the taking of notes of one’s thoughts. As to the jurors’ recreation of the shooting during deliberations, it was “simply a ‘more critical’ examination of the evidence admitted,” with no new extrinsic evidence received. (Higgins v. L. A. Gas and Electric Co. (1911) 159 Cal. 651.) Accordingly, there was no misconduct.