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Premature Deliberations by Jury May Affect Fundamental Fairness
Description South Carolina high court held that premature deliberations by a jury might affect "fundamental fairness" such that the trial court may tailor an appropriate response after reviewing the matter, which could include a new trial or special instructions to the jury.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Jury, Premature Deliberation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Aldret was convicted of drunk driving. He moved for a new trial, contending the jury had engaged in premature deliberations (discussed the verdict before being instructed by the court). One juror filed an affidavit stating that premature deliberations had occurred. The question before the South Carolina high court was whether the trial court should have considered the affidavit.
Decision Premature jury deliberations could affect fundamental fairness of a trial such that the trial court could inquire into such allegations and could consider juror affidavits in support of such allegations. The court may conduct a hearing to determine if the deliberations occurred and if they were prejudicial. The defendant is procedurally barred from raising the issue of whether jurors engaged in premature deliberations, if the defendant became aware of the alleged deliberations before the verdict, but did not bring it to the trial court's attention at that time.
Citation State v. Aldret, 509 S.E.2d 811 (Sup. Ct., S.C. 1999)

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