Trial court properly allowed additional closing arguments after question posed by deliberating jury reflected it was at an impasse regarding carjacking charge. Appellant was charged with carjacking and receiving stolen property (the car). During deliberations the jury sent a note to the court stating it was having problems with count one, the carjacking, and wanted to know if it could rule on count two, receiving stolen property. In responding, the court mentioned other ways in which the court could assist the jury, including allowing additional argument. Subsequently the jury requested additional argument. The defense objected, requested a mistrial, and stated the court should ascertain whether the jury was deadlocked before permitting additional argument. The trial court allowed the argument; 45 minutes later the jury convicted appellant of carjacking. The court found two prior prison terms and one prior serious felony enhancement true. Appellant was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On appeal, he alleged the trial court erred by allowing additional closing argument during deliberations. Held: Affirmed. California Rules of Court, rule 2.1036 provides tools for the trial court to use in assisting the jury to reach a verdict without influencing the jury. It provides that after the jury reports it has reached an impasse, the court may advise the jury of its duty to reach a verdict while keeping an open mind regarding the case. If the judge determines that further action is necessary, the rule provides options, including further argument. The authority for the rule is Penal Code sections 1093 (which sets forth the order in which the trial court should proceed) and 1094 (trial court may deviate from standard procedure in section 1093 when required by the pleadings or for good cause). The trial court had discretion to allow additional argument.
The jury need not announce it is at an impasse before the trial court is authorized to use the tools set forth in Rule 2.1036. Salazar claimed the trial court acted prematurely in informing the jury of the options available in Rule 2.1036 because the jury had not yet reported it was at an impasse, as set forth in the rule. But the jury note asking whether it could deliberate on count two “strongly indicated” it was at an impasse on count one. The information given regarding various options available to assist the jury in reaching a verdict stated this information is used if an impasse had been reached. There was no abuse of discretion.
The trial court did not err in instructing the jury to limit any request for additional argument to a specific topic and by allowing prosecution rebuttal. Salazar challenged the trial court’s act of informing the jury to limit any request for additional argument to a specific topic and for allowing the prosecution to have additional rebuttal argument. Asking the jury to specify a topic for additional argument allowed the attorneys to focus on the issue troubling the jury. Allowing the prosecution additional rebuttal during the guilt phase of the trial is part of the court’s general obligation to control proceedings. Even if the court erred in allowing additional rebuttal argument, it was harmless.