Juror misconduct leads to quashed conviction and retrial
Jurors who play detective are the scourge of the courtroom. In 2019 an Adelaide court quashed a man’s child sex abuse conviction and ordered a retrial due to juror misconduct. It was discovered that one of the jurors had visited the crime scene and taken a photo.
Prior to this, a District Court jury had found the man guilty of one count of communicating with the intention of making a child amenable to sexual activity, and three counts of indecent assault against a child.
However, when the judge was informed that a juror had photographed the scene of the alleged sexual assault and shown the pictures to three fellow jurors, the conviction was quashed and a retrial ordered.
Juror’s decision to investigate crime scene jeopardises entire case
The improper behaviour of the juror in conducting a private investigation caused much grief. These actions not only caused unnecessary cost and burden to the court system, but also meant that the victim would have to go through the trauma of giving evidence all over again.
A jury can only consider its verdict based on what is presented before it in court, not play detective and conduct its own investigations outside the court.
While this juror may have had acted with good intentions, it wasn’t their responsibility to gather evidence. That’s the task of the prosecution. Visiting the scene of the crime to get a better idea of where it occurred is indeed juror misconduct.
Conducting case research online can also amount to juror misconduct
To help decide their verdict, jurors may think it’s helpful to do an internet search on the case, on the accused or even on the finer points of jury service.
However, a Canberra jury in a sex assault trial was recently discharged and a mistrial declared when a juror searched the internet to see what happens when a jury is split eleven to one. The juror should have instead sought instructions from the judge.
At the beginning of every trial, the judge warns the members of the jury not to conduct their own investigations or research. Jurors are also obliged to inform the court if something comes to their attention.