In Fuller v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a child molestation conviction and held that the trial court erroneously denied the defendant's motion for mistrial based on juror misconduct.
During the trial, a juror approached and engaged in a conversation with the alleged victim during a lunch break. Despite the trial court’s standard instruction to the jury not to talk to anyone about the case, one of the jurors walked up to the alleged victim and said to her “Keep your head up. I’m so proud of you.” The trial court questioned the juror about whether she had a bias, whether she had discussed the case with other jurors and whether she had already reached a conclusion about the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The juror answered these questions in the negative and the trial court denied the defendant’s motion for mistrial and proceeded with the rest of the trial.
Fuller’s defense attorney appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by denying their motion for mistrial. The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed, noting that the juror’s unauthorized contact with the alleged victim was intentional and not accidental, the contact established a personal relationship with the alleged victim, and the juror’s statement appeared to express judgment concerning the charges. Based on these findings, the Court found that no rehabilitation of this juror was possible and that the state failed to show that the defendant was not harmed by the misconduct.
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