Sunday, December 28, 2014

Defendant's Failure To Touch Bible During Oath Leads NJ High Court To Remand

In Davis v. Husain, (NJ Sup. Ct., Dec. 23, 2014), the New Jersey Supreme Court remanded a case to the trial court for a different judge to consider whether religious considerations tainted a $12,500 verdict in a sexual harassment suit by a woman against her former employer. As described by the Supreme Court:
After the verdict was rendered and the jury was discharged, but before post-trial motions were argued and the judgment was entered, the trial judge conducted an ex parte discussion with the jurors, which was not recorded. According to the judge, one juror noted during that discussion that she was surprised that defendant had not placed his hand on the Bible before he testified. The judge did not make a record of the juror’s observation, but he did inform counsel as later events reveal.
The court indicated in a footnote:
Husain’s certification, submitted during post-verdict motion practice, indicates that Husain’s action was based on his religious beliefs. He states that it is his religious belief that the left hand should never be placed on a holy book.” He also states that he is “of Indian descent and the left hand is not used for any official purpose because of our culture.” 
The Supreme Court also banned for the future any post-verdict communications between a trial judge and jurors outside the presence of counsel. New Jersey Advance Media reports on the decision.