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Jury Deliberations

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CaseState of Tennessee v. Susan Jo Walls

Issue:  When may a jury be allowed to deliberate into late night hours?

Facts:  The Defendant was hospitalized with a medical emergency shortly before jury instructions. Over defense counsel’s objection to adjourn until the next day, the court elected to wait for the Defendant to return. He returned and the jury was charged at 6:30pm. Deliberations began at 7:13pm. The jury presented a question at 10:41pm, which was answered at 11:13pm. Pizza was ordered around that time. A Guilty verdict was returned at 1:05am. Defendant moved for a new trial due to the lateness of the deliberations.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court vacated the conviction due to the deliberations. The court cited precedent providing that court should proceed into late hours only in “unusual” circumstances which were not present here.

Review Granted:  August 18, 2016

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will affirm the intermediate decision to vacate the opinion due to an absence of justification for allowing deliberations to proceed to such a late hour.