Most, perhaps all, new clients hold an unrealistic view of juries. The movies and television generally depict jurors as somber, thoughtful persons listening intently. The media never depicts what occurs inside the jury room, but we all assume they remain thoughtful, deliberative inside the jury room.
No, they do not. . . . Well, sure, some do. But, many do not. There are no surveys or studies about the internal dymanics, but we know many juries violate accepted practices. We see this in the recent trial at the Bexar County Courthouse. World Car Hyundai owner, Ahmad Zabihian, sued Hyuandai in 2013 alleging the car maker violated an agreement to let him open the next Hyundai dealership in the area. Millions of dollars were at stake. The trial lasted two weeks. The pre-trial litigation lasted years. The trial ended on a Thursday.
The jury deliberated about one hour Thursday afternoon. They returned Friday, just before a three day weekend. According to one juror, the vote was generally 60-40 in favor of the plaintiff. But, some folks were in a hurry to get out of there. If the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff. that takes longer. The jury must then answer a series of questions and arrive at specific numbers for damages. Each question would require a vote and extended discussion. But if the jury finds for the defendant, the entity being sued, then there is just one vote and one discussion.
According to the one unnamed juror, some folks on the jury wanted them to decide the case within that 30 minutes on Thursday. That struck the one juror as absurd given the complicated issues.
On Friday, one jury member had to leave by 12 pm. They discussed resuming next week. But, other jurors had conflicts. Trying to wrap it up before 12, some jurors suggested finding in favor of Mr. Zabihian, but giving him no damages. No, said others, that accomplishes nothing. They might as well as vote for Hyundai and get it over with. And, that is what they did. They voted for the car maker, because that was the fastest way to get out of the court house and go home.
But, after the trial, after everyone had been released to go home, three jurors approached the judge, Rosie Alvarado, and reported what had occurred. The three jurors said they felt pressured to agree to a vote. Judge Alvarado said she thought this was jury misconduct, but was not sure. But, it certainly is. The jury members were clearly trading votes. Trading votes is one clear action jurors cannot take. In the trial business, the truth is most of us prefer not to look too closely at what juries do inside the jury room. That room is considered almost sacrosanct. Yet, most of us also know what truly goes on. See San Antonio Express-News report here.
As I tell my clients, it is one thing to file suit and risk your future. But, to risk your future on jurors who just do not want to be there raises the risk to a much higher level. And, you notice that at the end, the three jurors asked Judge Alvarado if their complaint meant all 12 jurors would have to come back again for jury duty. Even the three “good” jurors were concerned they might have to do jury duty, again. Her answer was no.