State v. Shaffona Morgan

In August of 2012 the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Shaffona Morgan. Ms. Morgan was the defendant in a criminal case where the judge allowed jury members to take home the jury instructions without notifying her attorney or the prosecutor. The ACLU-NJ argued that attorneys should never be excluded from important portions of the trial but whenever an attorney is excluded, the judge must try to reduce any potential damage by giving the attorney an opportunity to explore what was discussed between the judge and the jury. In addition, the ACLU-NJ contended that jury instructions must never be allowed to be taken home by jurors. The court ruled that the ex parte communications between the trial judge and jury were improper and the trial court erred in permitting the jurors to take written instructions home for the weekend.

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