In People v. Cook, the CA appellate court both affirmed and reversed portions of the defendant's criminal conviction for vehicular manslaughter.
What I found interesting about this case is the trial court's discussion of juror experiments. In Cook, one of the jurors went out at lunchtime and bought toy cars. During deliberations, he used the cars to reenact the accident which was the central issue in the case. Defense counsel argued that the reenactment was sufficient grounds for the trial court to release the personal information of the jurors so that they could be contacted by defense counsel. In CA, juror personal information is sealed upon the issuing of the verdict and can only be unsealed by showing sufficient grounds of juror misconduct.
In this case, the trial judge, in denying the motion to unseal the jurors' personal information, found that "using plastic cars is not an experiment. That [it] is no different than drawing little pictures or using the yellow Post-It that says this car's here, that car's there." After making this determination, the trial court went on to say that "not every jury experiment constitutes misconduct. Improper experiments are those that allow the jury to discover new evidence by delving into areas not examined during trial." Upon review, the appellate court agreed with the trial court's reasoning on this issue.
Although juror experiments may seem at first glance rather clear-cut, it is not always easy to distinguish between conducting improper experiments and merely reexamining or testing the evidence presented at trial. The line is usually crossed when new evidence is introduced into the jury room.
One of the more memorable examples of improper juror experiments is Ohio v. Ryan Widmer. In that case several jurors took showers at home and then timed themselves as they air dried. Determining how long it took a human body to dry was a critical issue in the case, however, neither party presented definitive evidence on the issue. Once defense counsel learned about these experiments he requested and was a granted a new trial.
Other posts related to juror experiments can be found here.