ST. PAUL (AP) -- The state Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for a convicted murderer because a judge allowed a juror to travel to Texas during deliberations without the defendant's approval.
Tuesday's ruling in the Chisago County case has statewide implications. The court said a mistrial must be declared if a juror cannot finish once the jury starts deciding a case. If a juror must leave for family or medical reasons, the trial can continue only with the consent of the attorneys involved and the agreement of the accused.
Edward Uriah Roberts, 27, of St. Paul, was convicted of second-degree murder and other charges in the 1999 death of a Coon Rapids man.
His trial began with the typical number of jurors: 12, plus two alternates. During proceedings, all parties consented to excuse one juror because of a health problem.
Before jurors were given the case to deliberate, Chisago County District Judge Linn Slattengren suggested the remaining alternate be allowed to join the other 12 jurors in deciding the verdict. Both prosecution and defense agreed to the unusual move. The Court of Appeals did not find error in that part of the case, according to the opinion.
But the unanimous three-judge appeals panel disagreed with the judge's next move. Slattengren, who has since retired, granted a juror's request to be excused during deliberations to attend a family commitment in Texas. The prosecution consented, but the judge apparently decided to excuse the juror before consulting Roberts, the opinion said.
The 12 remaining jurors continued deliberations and convicted Roberts. The defense attorney did not object to the juror's discharge until after the verdict.
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