State v. Juarez
State v. Juarez, 2021 UT App 53 (Harris, J).
Defendant was convicted alongside Codefendant of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and aggravated assault of two teenagers. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to sever his trial from Codefendant, contending his right to confrontation would be violated if Codefendant’s statements were heard by a jury without a chance to cross-examine Codefendant. The State asked to employ a “dual jury,” and trial counsel agreed. On appeal, Defendant first contended his counsel provided ineffective assistance by agreeing to the dual jury. He second contended that the trial court erred in denying his motion for mistrial based on the State’s use of the term “victims.” The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:
- Defendant cannot show ineffective assistance of counsel because he was not prejudiced by the dual jury. The trial court ensured each jury did not hear any evidence it should not hear, and the evidence against Defendant was convincing.
- The trial court did not err when it denied the motion for a new trial. The State’s use of the term “victims” was not unduly prejudicial here as it was clear the teenagers were victims of some crime and any reference to victims was innocuous. The court further gave the jury a curative instruction to ameliorate any harm.