Jury Duty question

My girlfriend had jury duty today. When it came time for a break, she asked the bailiff (or whoever watches over the jurors) where she could go to smoke. The bailiff led her down some stairs and out a back door. When she came back in (sooner than expected), she saw a kid in shackles being led up to the courtroom. Another bailiff saw her looking at the defendant and pulled her aside, and said, “Ma’am, you have just tainted the entire jury pool.”


How can simply seeing a defendant taint one juror, much less the entire jury pool?

Seeing a defendant in shackles is considered “prejudicial,” and most judges will not permit jurors to see a defendant thus. If jurors do see that, the defense attorney will move for…something; dismissal, replacement of the jury pool, what have you. The bailiff, however, may have exaggerated.

In what way? Are jurors considered to be more likely to acquit or convict the defendant if he is seen shackled?

I don’t know the specific legalities of this, but getting any kind of information about the case not through the official means (i.e. the judicial process) taints the juror. She can have feelings, ideas, etc. about the case before it is properly presented and can influence others.
Now, they can’t let her in to see the rest of the jury pool without tainting them too.

It isn’t fair to the defendant. All defendants are presumed innocent, until proven guilty. Seeing a defendant in shackles is likely to unfairly prejudice the juror against the defendant (he’s in shackles, therefore he’s in jail, and he must be dangerous, so he must have done it). Also, what groman said: the jury should consider only the admissible evidence, and a hallway glimpse of a shackeled defendant is not admissible evidence.

IMO, the bailiff overreacted. Was the entire panel there when she saw the defendant? Was she ever back with the panel so that she could tell them what she saw? If not, excuse her and get on with the panel.

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled on this in the case of Deck v. Missouri. As I understand it, even after the defendant has been found guilty, they may shackle him in front of the jury before sentancing, as it “almost inevitably affects adversely the jury’s perception of the character of the defendant.”

CNN Link

You left out a “not.”

She was instructed to not discuss what she saw with any other jurors.

When she was relating the events to me, she did refer to the defendant as “the criminal”, so I guess I can see where the idea of tainting is a valid one.

How nice of the baliff to blame her for his screw-up.

“Ma’am, you have just tainted the entire jury pool.”

No, you just tainted the entire jury pool because it’s your job to keep the jury seperated from the defendant dumb-ass.

If she’s still on the jury, she should not be discussing what she observes in court with anyone, including you.

I don’t think it was the second baliff’s fault (the one who told her off) but the first one’s. But yeah, he shouldn’t have blamed her for it.

No worries. Everyone was dismissed by 11am.

Actually, this happened to a juror that was on a jury with me.

On the opening of the second day of the trial the judge instructed the jury that Mr. Jones was being excused from the jury. He thanked Mr. Jones and apologized to him for having to excuse him and stated that Mr. Jones was diligent in his duties but for reasons that the judge could not reveal Mr. Jones was out. The judge then appointed the first alternate to the jury.

It wasn’t till the conclusion of the trial that the judge explained to the jury the reason.

Apparently Mr. Jones arrived at the courthouse early and unintentionally witnessed the accused being brought in wearing prison grays and shackles. For security reasons the accused could not change into a suit and tie until he was in the courthouse. They usually brought the prisoners in very early and had them dressed befor the jurors showed, but on that day the prsion bus ran late and Mr. Jones showed up early.

The judge ruled that the juror could possibly be influenced by the sight of the accused in prison garb so he excused him.