Trial court abused its discretion in discharging a holdout juror because the alleged failures to perform the juror’s duty were not shown as a “demonstrable reality.” Defendant was charged with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and other DUI offenses after a collision with two cars. Over days of deliberations, the jury foreperson sent several notes to the court indicating a juror was misapplying the reasonable doubt standard and that the jury could not reach a consensus on the murder and manslaughter charges. After further instructing the jury to continue deliberations, the court eventually questioned three jurors individually. The court discharged Juror 11, finding that he had considered information outside of the evidence, had applied incorrect burden of proof standards, and failed to follow the law. An alternate was seated and the jury then convicted defendant of vehicular manslaughter and the DUI charges. The court declared a mistrial on the murder charge. Defendant appealed. Held: Reversed. The trial court has authority to discharge a juror upon a good cause showing the juror was unable to perform his duty, which includes refusing to follow the court’s instructions. Discharge of a juror is reviewed for abuse of discretion using the demonstrable reality test, which requires a showing the trial court relied on evidence that, in light of the entire record, supports its conclusion that good cause was established. Here, the findings that Juror 11 failed to perform his duties were not shown to a demonstrable reality. Juror 11 focused on evidence argued by both attorneys and there was no substantial evidence he considered evidence that was not received at trial. Any discussion of punishment was de minimis and was not a basis for discharge. The record also did not support a finding that Juror 11 failed to follow the court’s instructions. It is not a ground for discharge if a juror disagrees with the majority as to what the evidence shows, disagrees with how the law should be applied to the facts, does not deliberate well, has trouble articulating, or relies upon faulty logic. The error in discharging the juror was prejudicial, warranting reversal.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/A152729.PDF