Juror Impartiality Questioned in Bunkerville Retrial
by Shari Dovale
The Bunkerville Retrial is on Day 23, with three full days of jury deliberations being completed. Today brought the principals together when two jury questions were presented to the court.
The questions centered around one, or more, juror’s beliefs that two other jurors could not be unbiased. The two questionable jurors were identified by numbers, 6 & 9.
Judge Gloria Navarro did not read the questions aloud, presumably to keep the public from hearing the exact wording, as the attorneys had already been given copies of the questions.
The first question, labeled “Juror question #143” referenced juror #6 making statements concerning having had a gun pointed at her sometime in her past. She was later questioned and admitted that she had lost her temper over this issue. “I should have just kept that to myself and never said anything about it,” she told Navarro. “I was angry when I said it.”
During questioning it was revealed that this happened many years ago when she was a child. She also downplayed the actual event to the court, clarifying there was no assault, or other crime, involved.
The defense rightly questioned this later wondering how deeply this has affected her as she is still angry after all these years. They argued that this woman is clearly personalizing it and they question whether or not she can be fair and impartial.
During jury selection, each juror was given a questionnaire that specifically asked if they had ever been the victim of a crime. They were also asked pointed questions on how they felt about firearms. This juror indicated that she had no negative feelings about firearms and had not been the victim of a crime.
When the defense attorneys pointed this out, Judge Navarro seemed to scoff at them for asking this question and said, “I thought that was your case. Pointing a firearm was not a crime.”
The defense team asked for a mistrial based on this information not being disclosed during Voir Dire. Judge Navarro never specifically addressed this later, but did indicate the juror could return to the deliberations.
This is a typical response for Judge Navarro, in that she does not always give a specific ruling or answer, but indicates what should be happening instead. Previous examples are when objections were made and the attorneys would wait for her ruling, until they finally decide to either move on themselves, or reword their questions accordingly.
This juror seems very highly prejudiced against firearms. She does not like them. She gets angry when talking about them. She did this with other jurors. This should have been enough to have her disqualified and replaced by an alternate juror at the very least. It certainly seems appropriate that a mistrial should have been declared.
The second question was labeled “Juror question #144” and was in reference to Juror #9. It was questioned as to whether or not this woman was currently working in the court system, without disclosure, therefore, she may be biased toward the prosecution.
The concern from the complaining juror was that the woman stated 3 different times that she “works” in the court system. She also does not appear willing to continue deliberating, as if she has made up her mind.
While questioning the woman, she stated that she had worked for an administrative judge for 18 years. Though she may have used the present tense of “works”, she actually has not worked in the court system for several years, with other jobs in between.
She was also sent back to the deliberations.
These proceedings did give some indication to what may be happening within the jury room. It seems there is some contention, and possibly arguing between the jurors. There are questions as to whether these two jurors are even willing to discuss or deliberate with other jurors.
This may indicate a mistrial in the near future.
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