Judge Matthew Castano has denied Mayor Steve Sproul’s motion to declare a mistrial and overturn the jury’s guilty verdict from June 26. Sproul, who was found guilty of one misdemeanor charge of unlawful bodily contact, claimed that two jurors fell asleep while testimony was being heard during the day-long trial.
Castano ruled that Sproul and his attorney, Steven Titus, failed to establish that the defendant suffered any prejudice as a result of the two jurors’ “brief periods of inattention”.
Testimony was heard from both jurors. The first confirmed that he had fallen asleep during the State’s examination of its witnesses. The judge called a recess when he became aware of the possibility that the juror was fatigued and informed counsel of the reason for doing so.
Titus made no objection to the resumption of the trial or seek any remedial action at the time, says Castano.
The second juror testified that he may have fallen asleep for approximately one minute during a discussion of what various workers were doing at the Moorcroft sewage lagoon. He stated that his period of inattention occurred when a witness was describing events that had already been described numerous times and he “became bored”.
Neither Judge Castano nor Titus noticed these periods of inattention or raised the issue at the time of the trial.
Castano’s ruling points to the standard to be appropriately applied in these circumstances, which state that a court is not required to remove sleeping jurors and has considerable discretion in deciding how to handle such a situation. A sleeping juror does not violate the defendant’s rights unless that defendant can show he was prejudiced to the extent that he did not receive a fair trial.
After hearing testimony, Judge Castano ruled that Sproul’s motion for a mistrial should be denied.
By Sarah Pridgeon