Not too many served as jurors, let alone jurors in a criminal case. While most people are familiar with the idea of jury trial, the actual process by which jurors make their decision is a mystery for most as it is rarely shown in media, movies, TV, etc. However, jury deliberation is a very important part of the legal process and in New York, it is controlled by New York Criminal Procedure Law, which is explained below.
Following the court’s charge, the jury must retire to deliberate on its verdict in a place outside the courtroom. It has to be provided with suitable accommodations and must be continuously kept together under the supervision of a court officer or court officers. In the event that a court officer or court officers aren’t available, the jury will deliberate under the supervision of an appropriate public servant or servants. Except when authorized by the court, or else when performing administerial duties in regards to the jurors, these court officers or public servants, as the case may be, can not speak to or communicate with them or allow anyone else to do so.
At any time after the jury’s been charged or commenced its deliberations, and after notice to the parties and giving the parties an opportunity to be heard on the record outside of the jury’s presence, the court can declare the deliberations are in recess and can direct the jury to suspend its deliberations and separate for a reasonable period of time to be specified by the court, not exceeding twenty-four hours, except in the case of a Saturday, Sunday, or even a holiday, this separation can extend beyond a twenty-four hour period. Before each recess, the court has to admonish the jury and direct it not to resume its deliberations until all of the twelve jurors have reassembled in the designated place at the end of the declared recess.
On retiring to deliberate, the jurors can take with them any exhibits they received in evidence at the trial that the court, after giving the parties an opportunity to be heard on the matter, in its discretion allows them to take, a written list prepared by the court that contains the crimes submitted to the jury by the court in its charge and the possible verdicts. Whenever the court submits two or more counts charging crimes as set forth in the same article of the law, the court can set the dates, names of complainants, or specific statutory language, without defining any of the terms, by which the counts can be distinguished; provided of course, however, that the court will instruct the jury that the sole purpose of the notations is to distinguish between the counts, and lastly a written list that’s been prepared by the court which contains the names of every witness whose testimony has been presented throughout the trial, if the jury requests this list and the court, in its discretion, determines that such a list will assist the jury.
At any time during its deliberation, the jury can request the court for further instruction or information in regards to the law, in regards to the content or substance of any trial evidence, or in regards to any other matter that’s considered to be pertinent to the jury’s consideration of the case. On such a request, the court has to direct that the jury be returned to the courtroom and, after notice to both the people as well as counsel for the defendant, and in the presence of the defendant, have to give such requested information or instruction as the court will deem proper. With the consent of the parties, and on the request of the jury for further instruction in regards to a statute, the court can also give to the jury copies of the text of any statute which the court deems proper in its discretion.
While the letter of the law can at times seem complicated or confusing, it doesn’t always have to be.
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