United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Civil Procedure — jury polling
Where the defendant in a civil rights case was returned to prison and was not present when the verdict was read, a new trial is required.
“The point is not that a jury poll definitely or even likely would have revealed that the verdict was not unanimous. It is that Verser would have realized, had he had some way of knowing about the circumstances attending the announcement of the verdict, that a poll might be fruitful. A reasonable party, taking into account this jury’s initial indication that it was deadlocked, the speed with which it then returned a verdict, the statement (not emphasized by defendants) that a majority of jurors felt that the defendants had ‘something to do with what happened to Mr. Verser,’ and the juror’s mistaken use of the term ‘guilt’ (usually associated with the reasonable-doubt standard) rather than the civil term ‘liability,’ would likely have requested a poll of the jury. Verser was unable to observe or otherwise to learn about these events. On these particular facts, we cannot say that the district court’s error was harmless.”
Reversed and Remanded.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois Baker, J., Wood, J.