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Poll the Jury, Part II

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In 2008, I urged criminal defense lawyers always to poll the jury in the event of a conviction.

Jury polls might rarely turn up gold, but there is no harm to them after a criminal conviction other than the disenchantment of hearing "guilty" all the more times.

Last week after visiting the criminal clerk’s office at the D.C. Superior Court, I dropped in on a misdemeanor jury trial in progress, where the criminal defense lawyer is someone who at every turn encouraged me to go into private criminal defense practice when I was a public defender lawyer. He was trying a misdemeanor leashless dog case (jailable in D.C.) before a jury along with another criminal count. He is qualified for much more serious cases. Being on the court-appointed panel, he is eligible also to be appointed such minor misdemeanors as this one, as well. 

The jury returned a note that it had a verdict on one count, but was hopelessly deadlocked on the remaining count. The judge decided to receive the jury’s verdict on the count on which it had a verdict, and to instruct the jury to continue deliberating on its hopelessly deadlocked count.

The jury came in, and the foreperson pronounced the defendant guilty of one of the counts. I forget which one. The criminal defense lawyer asked for the jury to be polled. The fourth juror polled said: "That is not my verdict." Bless that juror’s heart, and bless the criminal defense lawyer for asking for a jury poll.

The day was at an end, and the judge now had a jury that would continue deliberating on both counts.

I do not yet know the final outcome of the case. I will ask the lawyer next time I see him.

Poll the jury.