Allowing Deliberating Jurors To Read Indictment At Home

September 13, 2012Articles Law360
Normally, trial judges are vigilant in ensuring that every step in a jury's deliberative process takes place within the confines of a single location: the jury deliberation room. Jurors are abjured to do nothing outside that room which could affect their deliberations, that is, not to discuss the case with friends or family members at home, not to read news stories about the case, not to have discussions with anyone in the courthouse, not to do their own research, and not to visit any of the places mentioned during the course of the trial. That room is the sole chamber in which jurors are to discuss, reflect upon and evaluate the evidence in the case.

That is unless the trial judge accedes to their request to do homework during deliberations. In United States v. Esso, 684 F.3d 347 (2nd Cir. 2012), the judge in the Southern District of New York, sitting in a mortgage fraud case, received a note from the deliberating jury indicating that it wanted to go home early one day and wanted to take the indictment home to read as a time-saver. The trial judge, after instructing the jurors not to discuss the indictment with anyone, agreed over objection to permit this highly unusual homework, and the subsequent conviction was upheld on appeal.

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