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Juries cannot be replaced after deliberation begins, North Carolina court rules

A man sentenced to life in prison without parole for a fatal shooting in a Raleigh motel room was given a new trial Tuesday by a state appellate court because a jury was replaced after deliberations began.

An intermediate appellate court panel unanimously found that Eric Lamond Chambers’ right to a “properly constituted jury” under the state constitution was violated.

Chambers was convicted of first-degree murder and assault with serious bodily injury in the 2018 shooting that killed Davell McMoore and injured Terry Blossom.

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After jurors began deliberating in Chambers’ 2022 trial, jurors told Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt that he could not return the next day because he had a doctor’s appointment, according to an opinion Tuesday. He reportedly told them.

Holt replaced the juror with an alternate and instructed the jury to begin deliberations anew. Mr. Chambers, who was representing him at trial, was not in the courtroom when the substitution took place.

A North Carolina court ruled Tuesday that jurors cannot be replaced after deliberations begin. (Fox News)

The state constitution states that, with some exceptions, no one can be convicted of any crime “other than by the unanimous verdict of a jury in open court.” And the state Supreme Court has ruled that means jurors cannot be replaced after deliberations begin, Chief Court of Appeals Judge Chris Dillon wrote in an opinion.

Dillon also pointed to the General Assembly’s 2021 law, which says that if jurors are instructed to begin deliberations anew, a replacement juror can be used to deliberate if the original juror is unable to continue. said that it was not damaged.

The state’s attorney defending the conviction said they could not pursue the jury argument because Chambers did not object to the substitution at trial. And the 2021 law is consistent with the state constitution in that it requires “among other things, 12 jurors, acting on the same facts and law, to unanimously decide the guilt or innocence of a defendant.” , Assistant Attorney General Kayden Hayes wrote.

But appellate lawyers appointed by Mr. Chambers said in a court brief that “Congress cannot by law override a provision of the Constitution.”

“When a law conflicts with the state constitution, we must follow the state constitution,” Dillon wrote in the opinion, joined by Justices Hunter Murphy and Jeff Carpenter. And Dillon added that such errors involving a jury trial cannot be ignored just because Chambers did not object at the time.

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State prosecutors may ask the state Supreme Court to consider Tuesday’s ruling.

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