Wednesday, March 06, 2019

New Trial Ordered After Juror Questions Defendant's Taking of Oath

In Davis v. Husain, (NJ App., March 1, 2019), a New Jersey state appellate court, in a hostile work environment case that has already wound its way to the state Supreme Court once, ordered a new trial.  At issue is a statement that was made by one of the jurors raising a question about the testimony of the defendant. The juror noted that defendant, a Hindu, had not placed his hand on the Bible when taking the oath. In earlier proceedings, it was shown that the defendant had acted in this way, at least in part, because of his religious belief that the left hand should never be placed on a holy book.  In ordering a new trial, the appeals court said in part:
The juror's comment regarding the Bible raises the specter of religious bigotry. Whether that concern colored the view of the other jurors is still unknown, with the exception of the juror who appeared. This is a peculiar situation. The Law Division judge said the juror who made the observation was only concerned with Husain's credibility, i.e. that a person who refused to place his hand on the Bible was incapable of taking the oath seriously and was therefore incredible. He contrasted this with out-and-out religious bigotry. But if he was correct, that too is simply impermissible. The exercise of a person's religion should not make him or her per se incredible. reports on the decision.