Lynn man's carjacking conviction overturned because judge never inquired about snoozing juror

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today overturned Luis Gonazalez's conviction and 12-year sentence for armed carjacking and witness intimidation because the judge in his trial took no action after jurors asked what they should do about the fact that one of them had been asleep during testimony.

The court said defendants and the public have a right to "conscious juries." Citing a long list of cases involving sleeping jurors, the justices said the judge should have conducted a "voir dire" hearing with the juror in question to determine whether he could fairly continue deliberating given that the other jurors felt he had basically missed part of the trial.

At the time, the judge said he had his eye on the juror in question and he never seemed to be asleep.

But, the appeals court ruled, that's not the same as knowing for a fact that he was actually awake the whole time and that the judge should have had a hearing to make sure.

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    Well, no. Not usually. An

    By on

    Well, no. Not usually. An overturned conviction is not the same thing as an acquittal; the appeals judges don't just say, "well the juror was sleeping, so you must not have done it." There's no reason the state can't retry him and I see no reason why it wouldn't. If the evidence is clear enough to convince 11 conscious and alert jurors, it's safe to assume it'll convince 12. He'll almost definitely serve time for this.

    A little extra cost, yes, but in the name of ensuring the sanctity of our justice system, I'm ok with it. Not so terrible.

    When the case is dismissed

    By on

    It's complicated, but it essentially comes into play when given the laws in question, a perfect judge and a perfect jury could not have possibly convicted the defendant. If an appeals court finds, for example, that the evidence presented could not prove the defendant committed the crime (or no crime had been committed, or the court didn't have jurisdiction, etc. ), then the appeals court would dismiss the case. For the purposes of double jeopardy this is like an acquittal and he can't be retried.

    There are some other weird exceptions and nuances too.

    How?

    By on

    The jury did their job, even went beyond by pointing out to the judge that there was a juror who nodded off during testimony and asking for him to be dismissed. The judge made an error by keeping on the jury a guy who slept through the testimony. The SJC essentially said that the judge screwed up. Justice wasn't properly, so we are back to square 1.

    Say you were on trial, facing jail time, and one of the jurors missed some key testimony that could help your case. What would you think then?

    (note- I'm not saying the guy's innocent, just that jurors should stay awake during the trial.)