Summary of Dillard v. State Decided by the Maryland Court of Appeals on August 25, 2010

In this Maryland criminal case, Defendant Dillard was charged with possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and related offenses. Detective Smith was the State’s primary witness. During trial, it was brought to the court’s attention that during a lunch break two jurors walked by Detective Smith, patted him on the back and said “good job.” The defense attorney moved for a mistrial. The State asserted a mistrial was not necessary because the jurors had not made a specific comment about their opinions of Dillard’s guilt. The trial judge denied the motion for mistrial and refused to replace one of the jurors with an alternate. The jury convicted Dillard. Dillard appealed to the Court of Special Appeals which affirmed the trial judge. The Court of Appeals reversed Dillard’s conviction. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court’s failure to conduct a voir dire examination of the jurors to determine whether the jurors had reached a premature conclusion as to Dillard’s guilt or formed fixed opinions constituted an abuse of discretion.

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