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State v. Soto, 2018 UT App 147 (Aug. 9, 2018)

Aug 9, 2018

The criminal defendant appealed the denial of a mistrial, arguing he was denied the constitutional right to an impartial jury in light of comments a Utah Highway Patrol officer and court IT employee made to the jury while they were riding in the private court elevator.  The court of appeals agreed the defendant’s constitutional right was violated and reversed his conviction.  In doing so, it clarified that the rebuttable presumption of prejudice announced in prior cases for unauthorized communications during trial between attorneys, witnesses, and court personnel and jurors is not limited to court personnel who are participants in the trial.  The rebuttable presumption applied in this case, and the State had not overcome it.