The Third Department, over a two-justice dissent, determined County Court properly denied defendant’s CPL 330.30 motion to set aside the verdict on the ground a juror was grossly unqualified. A juror (No. 6) had come forward during deliberations to say she thought the defendant had followed her in his car during the trial and had concerns for her safety. According to Juror No. 6, other jurors expressed safety concerns with respect to spectators at the trial. The judge interviewed each juror and concluded a mistrial should not be granted:
Upon review of the private colloquy between County Court and juror No. 6, we disagree with the dissent’s view that County Court failed to engage in a probing and tactful inquiry taking into due account the juror’s responses. “The [t]rial [j]udge generally is accorded latitude in making the findings necessary to determine whether a juror is grossly unqualified under CPL 270.35, because that [j]udge is in the best position to assess partiality in an allegedly biased juror” … .The trial court is tasked with “evaluat[ing] the nature of what the juror has seen, heard, or has acquired knowledge of, and assess its importance and its bearing on the case” … . County Court, “[i]n concluding that a juror is grossly unqualified, . . . may not speculate as to possible partiality of the juror based on [his or] her equivocal responses. Instead, it must be convinced that the juror’s knowledge will prevent [him or] her from rendering an impartial verdict” … . This Court likewise should not speculate. People v Fisher, 2023 NY Slip Op 00248, Third Dept 1-19-23
Practice Point: After a juror came forward during deliberations to say he had concerns for her safety because she thought defendant had followed her in his car during the trial, the trial judge interviewed her and the other jurors. The majority concluded defendant’s motion for a mistrial was properly denied. There was a two-justice dissent.