Motion for a New Trial
When the judge, the prosecutor, or the jury makes a mistake in a criminal trial in California, the defendant might have the option of getting relief by filing a motion for a new trial. The types of issues raised in the motion for a new trial might include:
- newly discovered evidence;
- insufficient evidence being introduced at trial;
- an error of law by the court;
- misconduct by the prosecutor;
- misconduct by the jury.
The motion for a new trial in a criminal case in California must be filed prior to the sentence being pronounced by the court at the sentencing hearing.
After the motion is filed, the court must rule on the motion within 20 days or 30 days with a proper extension of the verdict. In fact, the failure to rule on the motion within the time limits might automatically result in a new trial. See California Penal Code 1191 PC and 1202 PC.
When ruling on the motion, the Court has the option of:
- denying the motion and pronouncing judgment on the verdict;
- modifying the verdict to a lesser included offense of the convicted charge or reducing the degree of the charge; or
- granting the motion and ordering a new trial.
If the motion for a new trial is denied, your criminal defense attorney can still help you file a direct appeal with a higher court or seek other forms of post-conviction relief.
Attorney for a Motion for a New Trial in Ventura, CA
Juror Misconduct Alleged in a Motion for a New Trial
A defendant may move for a new trial on grounds of juror misconduct. (Pen. Code, § 1181, subds. 2, 3 & 4.) When a party seeks a new trial based upon jury misconduct, the court must undertake the following three-step inquiry:
- the court must first determine whether the affidavits supporting the motion are admissible. (See Evid. Code, § 1150, subd. (a));
- if the evidence is admissible, the court must then consider whether the facts establish misconduct;
- assuming misconduct is found, the court must determine whether the misconduct was prejudicial.
The trial court has broad discretion in ruling on each of these questions and its rulings will not be disturbed absent a clear abuse of discretion.’ ” (People v. Bryant (2011) 191 Cal.App.4th 1457, 1467.)
Jurors must not converse among themselves or with anyone else on any subject connected with the trial, nor may they form or express any opinion thereon until the cause is finally submitted to them. (Pen. Code, § 1122, subds (a)(1), (b).)
For this reason, it is misconduct for a juror to discuss a case with a non-juror during the course of a trial. (People v. Linton (2013) 56 Cal.4th 1146, 1194, 158 Cal.Rptr.3d 521, 302 P.3d 927.)
Once a court determines a juror has engaged in misconduct, a defendant is presumed to have suffered prejudice. The prosecutor has the burden to rebut the presumption by establishing there is “no substantial likelihood that one or more jurors were actually biased against the defendant.” (In re Manriquez (2018) 5 Cal.5th 785, 797, 235 Cal.Rptr.3d 787, 421 P.3d 1086.)
“Ultimately, the test for determining whether juror misconduct likely resulted in actual bias is ‘different from, and indeed less tolerant than,’ normal harmless error analysis. If the record shows a substantial likelihood that even one juror ‘was impermissibly influenced to the defendant’s detriment,’ reversal is required regardless of whether the court is convinced an unbiased jury would have reached the same result.” (People v. Cissna (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 475, 1117, 182 Cal.App.4th 1105, 1117, 106 Cal.Rptr.3d 54).
If the trial court is presented with a credible prima facie showing that serious misconduct has occurred, then the trial court may order jurors to appear at a hearing and to answer questions about whether misconduct occurred.
In fact, the trial court has discretion to subpoena even reluctant jurors when necessary to determine whether misconduct occurred. Although the court has the duty to protect jurors from overzealous attorneys and investigators, that duty does not require an abdication of the court’s obligation to ensure that the jury trial process is free from prejudicial misconduct.
This obligation to conduct a hearing is triggered when the defense provides evidence strongly suggestive of prejudicial misconduct.