Harmless Error and Jury Unanimity in DWI Cases

Shortly after I published last week’s post on State v. Babich, an astute reader asked about the court’s harmless error analysis. How, he inquired, could the improper admission of expert testimony that the defendant had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 be harmless error? Did the jury’s verdict indicate that it found the defendant guilty only under the “under the influence” prong of impairment rather than under the “alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more” prong? To answer these questions, I had to dig into the record on appeal and provide a bit of background on the requirement for jury unanimity in DWI cases. I thought others might be interested in my response.

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Non-Unanimous Verdicts in Criminal Cases?

A Wake County jury determined yesterday that Starbucks is not liable for injuries suffered by Raleigh Police Department Lieutenant Matthew Kohr when a cup of hot coffee spilled on his lap. WRAL has the story here. The verdict was 10-2. The parties agreed to a non-unanimous verdict. Can they do that? Could the parties in a criminal case do that?

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Unanimity and Felony Murder

The jury need not be unanimous regarding the felony underlying a defendant’s conviction of felony murder. State v. Taylor, 362 N.C. 514 (2008) (the defendant was charged with felony murder, and the jury was instructed disjunctively regarding two armed robberies as possible predicate felonies; the supreme court rejected the defendant’s argument that he was thereby … Read more