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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:After the state rested and Rudolfo Lopez began presenting his case, a juror notified the court he was acquainted with the complaining witness. The court conducted a hearing during which both parties questioned the juror about his knowledge of the complainant and whether such knowledge would interfere with his duty as a juror. The juror stated that although the complainant’s name was given during voir dire, the juror did not “know him by his name, just by face.” After seeing the complainant and hearing his testimony, the juror realized the complainant was a friend of his girlfriend’s stepfather. The juror said he did not immediately recognize the complainant and it took him awhile after hearing the complainant testify to “put everything together.” The juror had seen the complainant one time at a small social gathering, two or three years before trial, and the juror’s girlfriend’s stepfather had mentioned the complainant was his friend. Since that time, the juror said that he heard the stepfather mention the complainant from time to time, and the juror never heard any mention of an assault. The juror first equivocated as to whether he would give more credence to the complainant’s testimony but then stated he would “make [his] own opinion.” The juror also said that while he might feel a little uncomfortable if he found the defendant not guilty, the juror said he probably would not mention anything about the trial to his girlfriend’s family. The juror also equivocated about whether his girlfriend’s stepfather’s relationship with the complainant would influence his decision, stating, “I don’t want it to,” “I think it might” and “I don’t know.” Nevertheless, when the judge asked the juror whether the relationship between his girlfriend’s family and the complainant would affect what the juror did in the case and whether he would feel pressured to find Lopez guilty, the juror answered, “No.” And in response to the court’s question as to whether his knowledge of the complainant would keep the juror from being fair, the juror responded: “It shouldn’t. I didn’t really know him. I just saw him. I mean, I . . . it took me a while to recognize him, . . .” At the conclusion of the hearing, Lopez requested the court to excuse the juror for cause and to declare a mistrial. The trial judge denied both requests. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court reviewed the trial court’s denial of a motion for mistrial under an abuse of discretion standard. When, notwithstanding the complaining party’s diligence during voir dire, a juror later discloses his knowledge of or relationship with a witness, the juror is considered to have withheld information during voir dire. When the withheld information is material, it is constitutional error to deny a motion for mistrial. When the withheld information is not material and the record does not show the defendant has been deprived of an impartial jury or denied a fair trial, the trial court’s denial of a motion for mistrial is not error. First, the court held that Lopez did not fail to exercise diligence in voir dire and did not waive his complaint. Second, the court addressed whether the juror withheld material information, i.e., whether the relationship between the juror and the complainant had a potential for demonstrating bias or prejudice on the part of the juror against Lopez. The facts in Lopez’s case, the court stated, demonstrated “less potential for bias” than those in the 1986 CCA decision Decker v. State. In Lopez’s case, there was never any relationship between the juror and the complainant. The juror saw the complainant only once, briefly, several years earlier, and the juror did not recognize the complainant’s name and did not initially recognize him in person. The record did not demonstrate the juror’s relationship with the stepfather would potentially cause the juror to be biased or prejudiced in favor of the state or against Lopez. And before trial, the juror did not hear any mention of the incident on which the charges against Lopez were based. Thus, the court concluded that the withheld information did not suggest any potential for bias or prejudice and was not material. Finally, the court found that the juror was not biased as a matter of law. The juror in this case made no unequivocal statement indicating bias or prejudice, the court stated. The juror ultimately stated he would rely on his own opinion to judge the witness’ credibility and the relationship would not influence what he did in the case. Because the information withheld by the juror in voir dire was not material and there was no showing Lopez was deprived of an impartial jury, the court held that the trial court did not err in denying his motion for a mistrial. OPINION:Hilbig, J.; Angelini, Simmons and Hilbig, JJ.

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