When a jury asks clarifying questions of the court when deliberating, the court must meaningfully answer the question, without prejudicing the defendant. In People v. Wood (4th Dept. 7/25/2018), the Fourth Department held that a supplemental instruction provided by the court in response to a jury question constituted an abuse of discretion.
The defendant in this case was convicted by a jury verdict of two counts of CPW 2º and one count of Menacing 2º. (The first count of CPW 2º charged possession outside the home of a loaded firearm. The second count of the same crime charged possession with intent to use it against another.)
This case arose from a breakfast at a restaurant, which the defendant deemed cost too much and complained. Weeks later, he returned to the restaurant with a loaded gun, pointing it at employees and demanding sexual favors in exchange for the cost of breakfast. He was asked to leave and did so, and was then apprehended nearby by police. At trial, the defendant testified that the gun was a war antique of his grandfather’s and he was transporting it to another individual, keeping it on his person so that it was not stolen. The defendant claimed that he entered the restaurant to make amends with the complainant after his initial outburst. In his version of events, she insulted him, so he insulted her back and left, never displaying the weapon.
During juror deliberations, the jury sent a note requesting clarification on the terms “intent” and “unlawfully.” Continue reading