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SLEEPING JUROR - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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SLEEPING JUROR

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

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A trial judge should utilize trial management techniques that keep jurors awake and attentive. These techniques and procedures will reduce the likelihood of a juror falling asleep. The techniques include; taking frequent short breaks, taking very short stretch breaks, informing the jury that they can stretch and chat during bench conferences, informing the jury that they can request a break if they need one, and allowing the jury to bring beverages into the jury box.

The judge should empower his or her staff to help monitor the courtroom including the jury. The trial judge should inform the defendant, thru the defense attorney, of the sleeping juror as soon as that fact is brought to judge’s attention. The judge should voir dire the juror, outside the presence of the other jurors to determine if the juror had actually been asleep and if so how long the juror had been sleeping. Determining how long the juror had been sleeping will allow the judge to determine how much of the testimony was missed by the juror. To determine this period the judge should ask the juror what is the last testimony the juror remembers hearing. The judge should replace the juror with an alternate or grant a mistrial if requested by the defendant.[1] NOTE: A mistrial should not be granted in this situation if the defendant, after being informed of the sleeping juror, does not requests one or the defendant oppose the granting of one if a mistrial is contemplated by the judge.[2]


References:

  1. State v. Yant, 376 N.W.2d 487, 491 (Minn. App. 1985); State v. Gillespie, A5-269 (Minn.Ct. App. 2005).
  2. Id.