Once a person has been selected as juror in a New York Criminal case and has been sworn in, it is very difficult to be discharged from the jury. However, there is such a possibility, and it is controlled by New York Criminal Procedure Law, which is explained here.
If at any time after the trial jury’s been sworn and before the rendition of its verdict, a juror’s unable to continue serving because of illness or other incapacity, or for any other reason is unavailable for service, or the court finds from facts unknown at the time of the selection of the jury that a juror’s grossly unqualified to serve in the case or has engaged in misconduct of a substantial nature, but not warranting the declaration of a mistrial, the court has to discharge this juror. If an alternate juror or jurors are available for service, the court needs to order that the discharged juror be replaced by the alternate juror whose name was first drawn and called, provided of course, however, that if the trial jury began its deliberations, the defendant has to consent to this replacement. This consent has to be in writing and must be signed by the defendant in person, in open court, in the presence of the court. If the discharged juror was the foreperson, the court will designate as the new foreperson the juror whose name was second drawn and called. If no alternate juror’s available, the court must declare a mistrial.
In determining whether a juror’s unable to continue serving because of illness or other incapacity, or is for any other reason unavailable for service, the court will make a reasonably thorough inquiry about the illness, incapacity or unavailability, and will attempt to ascertain when the juror will be appearing in court. If the juror fails to appear, or if the court determines there’s no reasonable likelihood the juror will be appearing in court within two hours of the time set by the court for the trial to resume, the court can presume the juror’s unavailable for service and can discharge the juror. Nothing contained in this paragraph will affect the court’s discretion, under this or any other provision, to discharge a juror who repeatedly fails to appear in court in a timely manner.
The court will afford the parties an opportunity to be heard before discharging a juror. If the court discharges a juror, it will place on the record the facts and reasons for its determination that said juror is ill, incapacitated, or unavailable for service.
Nothing contained in this subdivision will affect the requirements of subdivision one of this section in regards to the discharge of a juror when the trial jury began its deliberations.
Trial Jury: Preliminary Instructions by Court
After the jury’s been sworn and before the people’s opening address, the court needs to instruct the jury generally concerning its basic functions, duties, as well as conduct. These instructions must include, among other things, admonitions that the jurors can not converse among themselves or with anyone else on any subject connected with the trial, that they can not read or listen to any accounts or discussions of the case that are reported by newspapers or other news media, that they can not visit or view the premises, or the place where the crime(s) charged were allegedly committed or any other premises or place involved in the case, that prior to discharge, they can not request, accept, agree to accept, or discuss with anyone receiving or accepting, any payment or benefit in consideration for supplying any information that concerns the trial, and lastly that they must promptly report to the court any incident in their knowledge that involves an attempt by anyone to improperly influence any member of the jury.
While the letter of the law can at times seem complicated or confusing, it doesn’t always have to be.
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