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The Court of Appeals of Georgia has ruled that a jury foreman should not have been removed from a case for telling jurors to “go to hell” during deliberations, so the defendant is entitled to a new trial on drug-dealing charges in Lowndes County, Ga. The intermediate state court recently ruled, 4-3, that Southern Judicial Circuit Chief Judge H. Arthur McLane abused his discretion when he dismissed the foreman solely for using vulgar insults. The ruling did not name the foreman. After deliberations began, the foreman told a juror to “go to hell.” Later, a member of the deadlocked jury told the judge that one juror was cursing and insulting others by saying, “You’re monkeys” and “You’re stupid.” McLane did not determine whether the foreman was the one accused of making the remarks. The jury deadlocked at 10-2 in favor of conviction, according to Judge Debra H. Bernes’ appeals decision. The foreman was one of the two supporting acquittal, and after McLane removed him, the jury returned with a conviction in 16 minutes. Bernes wrote that the foreman did not threaten jurors physically, and McLane had not tried a less drastic approach, such as admonishing the deadlocked jury to deliberate with civility. “While we certainly do not condone the use of vulgar or coarse language among jurors, ‘total placidity is not in the nature of jury deliberation,’ ” wrote Bernes, quoting from U.S. v. Tallman, 952 F.2d 164, a 1991 decision of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bernes said that handling heightened tensions in the jury room is part of the job for a juror, and she found no testimony that the foreman’s coarse language prevented the jury from deliberating further.

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