Can a jury be re-examined for a new trial if the jury was asked whether it had reached a verdict by the end of the trial?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from Ruttan v. City of L. A., B248268 (Cal. App. 2014):

nothing more than that the bailiff asked the jury about the status of its verdict. Such conduct does not, standing alone, qualify as a violation of section 613. (Cf. Leonard v. Hume (1935) 5 Cal.App.2d 41, 43 [no misconduct where bailiff "'assigned to take care of jury[] came into the jury room and stated that he had to give thirty minutes notice to the [hotel] as to whether or not the jury would be sent there for the night, and he would give them fifteen minutes in which to make up their minds as to whether a verdict would or would not be rendered in this case'"].)

The only legal authority the Ruttans cite in support of their argument is Patton v. Royal Industries Inc. (1968) 263 Cal.App.2d 760, in which the appellate court disapproved of the trial court's comment that the jury should have "no difficulty in reaching a verdict." (Id. at p. 769.) The appellate court concluded the clear "implication" of this statement was that the jury "was . . . taking too much time" to reach a verdict. (Ibid.) In this case, however, there is no evidence the bailiff asked his questions in a manner that suggested the jury was taking too much time to reach a verdict or that they should do so by the end of the day. None of the seven juror affidavits contain any language that would support such a finding. To the contrary, several of the affidavits contain language indicating the court and its staff did not "exert any pressure on the jurors." On this record, we find no basis for concluding the Ruttans were entitled to a new trial based solely on the fact that the bailiff inquired whether the jury though it would reach a verdict by the end of the day.

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