The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

Law Reform Index

Unanimous Jury Verdicts

The Dominion Post
November 13 2004

Juror too late to change her mind

A distraught juror rang Napier District Court the morning after finding a man guilty of rape, asking if she could change her mind, the Court of Appeal has been told.

Her belated misgivings did not sway the court.

In a second conversation with the district court employee, the juror said she thought some jurors had made a hasty decision on the rape charge to "get out of the place" after considering the case till midnight.

"She told the court attendant that, if the jury had been able to stay overnight, she felt the result of the rape charge would have been different," the Court of Appeal said in its decision on the appeal of James Boycee Caleb Ropotini.

The court dismissed his appeal against conviction on one charge of rape and two of indecent assault on a girl under 12 years. Ropotini is serving a 6<<1/2>>-year jail term.

The three appeal judges said it was important that once a verdict was delivered, and jurors had agreed in court that it was the verdict of them all, that the verdict should be final. "Though jurors sometimes have belated misgivings about a verdict, the crucial issue is whether the verdict was the unanimous verdict of the jury at the time it was delivered in court."

There was no basis for the perceptions of one juror after a trial to call into question a unanimous verdict delivered in court.

Staff looking after the jury during its deliberation in March said jurors did not ask to go to a hotel for the night.

Secrecy of deliberations means the court wants to strictly control contact with jurors. Ropotini's lawyer wanted the Court of Appeal to appoint an independent lawyer to ask the juror what she had been told about overnight accommodation, but the court refused.

The lawyer said the verdicts might have been unsafe because of juror fatigue.

But the Court of Appeal judges said the juror's first conversation with the court staff member was not that any pressure had been placed on the jury, or that there was any misunderstanding about the availability of overnight accommodation. In the second conversation, the juror said she thought if the jury had been able to stay overnight the rape result might have been different. The Court of Appeal said that did not mean the jury had not agreed on the verdict.