05272017Headline:

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Did a Trial Court Abuse Its Discretion By Not Polling Jurors About a Prejudicial News Story?

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The Supreme Court of Colorado examines the issue in People v. Jacobson (2017 CO 28). In this case, Sandra Jacobson was convicted of vehicular homicide and other related charges. During the jury selection process before the trial, a prospective juror asked the judge why the jury has to avoid media coverage. The judge told that prospective juror there have been verdicts in cases in Colorado reversed because jurors did their own research and brought outside information into the jury room. The judge said it is a problem—jurors do not seem to understand that no communication means no communication when you are on the jury.

Each and every day, the court would remind the jurors that they were to avoid any and all media covering the case and the defendant. During the trial, the court was notified of a specific news story on the case. The judge again reminded the jury to avoid that news story that night. The next day, defense counsel wanted to poll the jury about whether they saw that news story. The court declined, saying it had admonished jurors daily about the media, that the jurors looked serious when warned about the news cast, and lastly, that the court thought polling the jury would be like dangling a cookie in front of a child. On appeal, the court reversed Jacobson’s convictions and held that a new trial was required because the court had abused its discretion by not polling the jury. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the Supreme Court held that it could not be reasonably believed that the jury heard the news stories in question. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in not polling the jury. It reversed the appeals court and affirmed Jacobson’s convictions.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.

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