Louisiana Trial Attorney New Orleans
Elizabeth B. Carpenter, Esq. — New Orleans Criminal Defense
Grounds for Mistrial — La Code of Criminal Procedure Article 775
A mistrial may be ordered, and in a jury case the jury dismissed, when:
(1) The defendant consents thereto;
(2) The jury is unable to agree upon a verdict;
(3) There is a legal defect in the proceedings which would make any judgment entered upon a verdict reversible as a matter of law;
(4) The court finds that the defendant does not have the mental capacity to proceed;
(5) It is physically impossible to proceed with the trial in conformity with law; or
(6) False statements of a juror on voir dire prevent a fair trial.
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TEN RULES JURY TRIALS AND JURY DUTY IN LOUISIANA
1.) Number of Jurors Composing Jury / Number which must Concur / Waiver of Trial by Jury
Cases in which punishment may be capital are tried by a jury of 12 jurors, all of whom must concur to render a verdict.
Cases in which punishment is necessarily confinement at hard labor shall be tried by a jury composed of 12 jurors, 10 of whom must concur to render a verdict.
Cases in which the punishment may be confinement at hard labor shall be tried by a jury composed of 6 jurors, all of whom must concur to render a verdict.
** Trial by jury may be knowingly and intelligently waived by the defendant except in capital cases.
2.) Excusing Jurors / Issuing Attachments for Absent Jurors
The court may excuse a member of the jury at any time prior to the time he is sworn as a juror on a particular case. The panel shall be selected from the remaining members of jury. The court may order the attachment for the arrest of an absent and unexcused juryman.
If jury service would result in undue hardship or extreme inconvenience, the court may excuse a person from such service either prior to or after his selection for the jury or the general jury pool.
No person or group of persons shall be automatically excused.
In the event a person is excused because jury service would result in undue hardship or extreme inconvenience, the court may order that person’s name be placed again in the central jury pool.
3.) Method of Selecting Jury Panel
In selecting a panel, names shall be drawn from the jury pool randomly and indiscriminately, by lot in open court and in a manner to be determined by the court.
4.) Examination of Jurors / Voir Dire
The court, the state, and the defendant shall have the right to examine prospective jurors. The scope of the examination shall be within the discretion of the court. A prospective juror, before being examined, shall be sworn to answer truthfully questions asked him relative to his qualifications to serve as a juror in the case. This process is called Voir Dire.
Disqualification of Potential Jurors in a Case
The court may disqualify a prospective petit juror from service in a particular case when for any reason doubt exists as to the competency of the prospective juror to serve in the case.
5.) Alternate Jurors
The court may direct that not more than six jurors in addition to the regular panel be called and impaneled to sit as alternate jurors. Alternate jurors, in the order in which they are called, shall replace jurors who become unable to perform or disqualified from performing their duties. Alternate jurors shall be drawn in the same manner, shall have the same qualifications, shall be subject to the same examination and challenges for cause, shall take the same oath, and shall have the same functions, powers, facilities, and privileges as the principal jurors.
If the court determines that alternate jurors are desirable in the case, the court shall determine the number to be chosen.
The regular peremptory challenges allowed by law shall not be used against the alternate jurors.
The court shall determine how many additional peremptory challenges shall be allowed, and each defendant shall have an equal number of such challenges. The state shall have as many peremptory challenges as the defense. The additional peremptory challenges may be used only against alternate jurors. Except in capital cases, an alternate juror who does not replace a principal juror may be discharged when the jury retires to consider its verdict.
In a capital case, at the conclusion of the guilt phase of the trial, alternate jurors that have not replaced principal jurors shall not be discharged, but shall be sequestered from other members of the jury until the jury has reached a verdict. If a sentencing hearing is mandated, the alternate jurors will be returned to the jury and will hear the evidence presented at the sentencing hearing and will be available to replace principal jurors.
If the court replaces a principal juror with an alternate juror after deliberations have begun, the court shall order the jury to begin deliberations anew.
6.) Swearing of jurors
When selection of jurors and alternate jurors has been completed, and all issues properly raised have been resolved, the jurors shall then be sworn together to try the case in a just and impartial manner, each to the best of his judgment, and to render a verdict according to the law and the evidence.
7.) Sequestration of Jurors and Jury
A jury is sequestered by being kept together in the charge of an officer of the court so as to be secluded from outside communication.
In capital cases, after each juror is sworn he shall be sequestered, unless the state and the defense have jointly moved that the jury not be sequestered.
In noncapital cases, the jury shall be sequestered after the court’s charge and may be sequestered at any time upon order of the court.
8.) Selection of Foreman
When the jury has retired, the jurors shall select a foreman who shall preside over their deliberations and sign the verdict.
9.) Use of Evidence in Jury Room / Reading of Recorded Testimony / Jurors’ Notes
Generally, a juror must rely upon his memory in reaching a verdict. He shall not be permitted to refer to notes or to have access to any written evidence. Testimony shall not be repeated to the jury. Upon the request of a juror and in the discretion of the court, the jury may take with it or have sent to it any object or document received in evidence when a physical examination thereof is required to enable the jury to arrive at a verdict.
A juror shall be permitted to take notes when agreement to granting such permission has been made between the defendant and the state in open court but not within the presence of the jury. The court shall provide the needed writing implements. Jurors may, but need not, take notes and such notes may be used during the jury’s deliberations but shall not be preserved for review on appeal. The trial judge shall ensure the confidentiality of the notes during the course of trial and the jury’s deliberation and shall cause the notes to be destroyed immediately upon return of the verdict.
The lack of consent by either the defendant or the state to allow a juror to take notes during a trial shall not be communicated to the jury.
10.) Removal of Jury from the Court Room
The court may, and at the request of the state or a defendant shall, remove the jury from the courtroom when the court hears matters to be decided by the court alone. The court may remove the jury from the courtroom at any time when considered in the best interest of justice.