August 21, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Evidence of Guilt Overwhelming so Any Error in Failing to Discharge Alternate Juror was Harmless

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in James v. People on Monday, September 17, 2018.

Jury Deliberations—Conduct Affecting Jurors—Risk of Prejudice—Harmless Error.

James sought review of the court of appeals’ judgment affirming his conviction for possession of methamphetamine. Upon realizing that it had failed to discharge the alternate juror before the jury retired to deliberate, the district court recalled and dismissed the alternate, instructed the jury to continue with deliberations uninfluenced by anything the alternate may have said or done, and denied the defense motion for dismissal or mistrial. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court’s error in allowing the alternate juror to retire with the jury and the juror’s presence for part of the deliberations were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and, after rejecting James’s other assignments of error, affirmed his conviction. The supreme court held that the evidence proving defendant’s guilt of the offense of possession was overwhelming, and therefore the district court’s failure to recall an alternate juror for approximately 10 minutes amounted, under the facts of the case, to harmless error. Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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