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The People v. Robert Hon

January 5, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT HON, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. No. 03F00966)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie ,j.

P. v. Hon

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

A jury found defendant Robert Hon guilty of second degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to 15 years to life in state prison. Defendant appeals, contending the trial court committed reversible error when it failed to conduct an appropriate inquiry of the other jurors after one of the jurors asked to be excused from the jury. We will affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

Police searched for defendant after receiving a 911 call regarding his possible involvement in a murder. They found defendant's van and the body of a naked woman inside. After several more hours of searching, they found defendant hiding underneath a truck near the van.

Defendant was charged with first degree murder. He was tried in January 2005. At the conclusion of that trial, the jury found him not guilty of first degree murder, but could not reach a verdict on the lesser included charge of second degree murder, causing the court to declare a mistrial on that offense.

A second jury trial commenced in January 2009 on the charge of second degree murder. At the conclusion of the evidentiary phase, the case was submitted to the jury for deliberation.

Following a day and one-half of jury deliberations, the court received a note from Juror No. 11 which read as follows: "I would like to be excused. I am experiencing a high level of stress. I feel I am being intentionally targeted and interrogated. I thought I would try again today, however nothing has changed w/ certain peoples [sic] attitudes & behaviors. Many walked in w/ a verdict right away and are annoyed and agitated w/ any different point of view."

The court notified counsel and the following discussion took place:

"THE COURT: Counsel, we just received a note from juror number 11 indicating that she wants to be excused from the jury. That she's experiencing a high level of stress, and the court's minutes will reflect exactly what the juror has indicated as to the stress level. [¶] I've indicated to counsel in chambers that it's the Court's intention to call in juror number 11 in an effort to determine if she can continue to deliberate or if the stress is such that it's making her physically ill and she cannot -- obviously we would all agree that jurors sign up for a certain amount of stress, but when it begins to affect their health, that's asking too much. So depending on what juror number 11 says, I may or may not wind up questioning the foreperson, but I will give Counsel an opportunity at sidebar after I question juror number 11 and before I'm done with her in the courtroom to indicate to the Court there are additional areas you wanted me to inquire as to. [¶] Obviously I'm going to be extremely cautious. I don't want to get into the jury deliberations and what's being said. I'm more concerned about her state of her health and whether or not she can continue to deliberate in the case."

(Juror number 11 enters the courtroom.)

"BY THE COURT: Good afternoon . . . . Go ahead and take your seat in the jury box.

"[JUROR NO. 11]: Oh, boy.

"[THE COURT]: . . . I received a note from you indicating that you wished to be excused, that you're experiencing a high level of stress.

"[JUROR NO. 11]: Mm-hm.

"[THE COURT]: I just want to indicate to you that I just want you to be very careful in answering my questions. Please do not volunteer any additional information because I do not want to trespass on the jury's deliberation process. When you indicate that you'd like to be excused because you're experiencing a high level of stress, I think both attorneys would acknowledge that this -- it's a difficult case, and it was stressful to sit through it and we understand that. But what I don't want to have happen to you is if you're so stressed you're getting sick. [¶] And so when you're saying you're experiencing a high level of stress, is it affecting you physically?

[JUROR NO. 11]: Yeah. Last night I was very concerned, and I thought I'll give it another try, but, you know, it hasn't been easy.

"[THE COURT]: And I understand that you don't sign up to get physically ill sitting on a jury with stress.

"[JUROR NO. 11]: And I didn't sit through this to quit.

"[THE COURT]: And I completely understand that. Do you think -- tomorrow we're not going to be in session, so that the deliberations would, you know, again occur on Friday. Do you --are you having ...


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