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Starting Jan. 1, attorneys face a stiff new set of requirements if they want to question jurors about their deliberations more than 24 hours after a verdict. Under legislation signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis on Friday, attorneys who seek post-verdict information from jurors must identify the case, the party they represent, and the juror’s right not to respond, as well as the juror’s right to review and receive a copy of any subsequent declarations filed in court. Dubbed the “Juror’s Bill of Rights,” AB 2567 was sponsored by Attorney General Bill Lockyer and carried by Democratic Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, a family law attorney from Santa Barbara. “The California Supreme Court noted in two recent cases that jurors interviewed after the trials felt misled by the interviewing techniques of the attorney,” said Jackson. “With fewer Californians willingly participating in jury pools, it is vital that we maintain confidence in the justice system, particularly for those who do volunteer.” The AG’s office said that such post-conviction juror interviews particularly affected cases carried by its appellate attorneys. “We’re just asking [all] attorneys to let these jurors know they have rights,” said Lester Kleinberg, who lobbies for the AG. The new law began with a suggestion by Justice Ming Chin after the state supreme court’s review of a habeas case, In Re Hamilton, 20 Cal.4th 473 (1999). In it, the defendant claimed juror misconduct, citing two separate and conflicting declarations by an elderly juror, interviewed more than a decade after the initial guilty verdict. In his opinion, Chin wrote that he believed defense investigators had been “more interested in generating a misconduct claim where their predecessor had failed than they were in the truth.” Current law requires a judge to inform jurors in a criminal trial before they are discharged that they have an absolute right not to discuss the deliberation or the verdict with anyone. In most criminal cases, attorney interviews occur soon after the verdict, since a defendant who wants a motion for a new trial must usually make one before judgment is pronounced by the court within 20 days of the verdict. But the justices have noted problems for jurors contacted months or even years after a case has been tried. In 1997-98, there were 8,660 criminal appeals before the state’s highest court, including 48 habeas corpus proceedings. Jackson says her bill will not limit attorneys’ ability to investigate genuine cases of misconduct but simply decreases the likelihood that jurors will feel misled.

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