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.