Judges: Do not talk to jurors only in terms of their option to convict
Praised be Maryland’s highest court for its reversal today of a murder conviction, due to the trial judge’s asking the prospective jury panel a question concerning its option to convict, without including in the question the jury’s option to acquit. Charles and Drake v. Maryland, ___ Md. ___ (June 18, 2010).
The trial judge said to the jury: "[I]f you are currently of the opinion or belief that you cannot convict a defendant without “scientific evidence,” regardless of the other evidence in the case and regardless of the instructions that I will give you as to the law, please rise." Charles concluded that the trial judge "abused his discretion by suggesting to the panel that ‘convict[ing]’ Drake and Charles was the only option in the present case; this suggestive question poisoned the venire, thereby depriving Drake and Charles of a fair and impartial jury. See Hutchinson, 287 Md. at 205-06, 411 A.2d at 1039. Therefore, we reverse the judgments of the Court of Special Appeals and remand for a new trial."