Sleeping Juror Prompts Conviction Reversal

A conviction of two counts of cocaine distribution by a lower court was reversed by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts because the judge failed to investigate the claim that one of the jurors was sleeping. The ruling reversed the case Commonwealth v. Braun, during which the judge, prosecutor, and defense counsel noticed one of the six jurors was looking down for extended stretches of time.

It was determined that the judge abused his discretion when he failed to conduct a voir dire for which there was a legitimate basis—that the juror was sleeping during testimony and therefore was unable to fulfill her oath to evaluate the evidence.