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The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT RELATIVE TO JURIES AND THE OFFICE OF JURY COMMISSIONER.

      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
      SECTION 1.  Chapter 234 of the General Laws is hereby repealed.
      SECTION 2.  Chapter 234A of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 27 the following section:-
      Section 27A.  After a summons has been received by a juror, no person shall, except as otherwise provided by law, question any juror so summoned for the purpose of obtaining information as to the juror’s background in connection with the juror’s jury duty.
      SECTION 3.  Said chapter 234A is hereby further amended by inserting after section 30 the following section:-
      Section 30A.  If, by challenge or otherwise, a sufficient number of jurors duly drawn and summoned cannot be obtained for the trial of a case, the court shall cause jurors to be returned from the bystanders or from the county at large, to complete the panel, if there are on the jury not fewer than 7 of the jurors who were originally drawn and summoned.
      Before causing additional jurors to be returned for service the jury pool officer shall file an affidavit with the court stating that more than the usual number of jurors are required on the case and that the jury pool has been exhausted. The judge sitting on the case shall make a finding as to the accuracy of said affidavit prior to the return of additional jurors.
      The jurors from the bystanders shall be returned by the sheriff or the sheriff’s deputy or by a disinterested person appointed by the court, and shall be qualified and liable to be drawn as jurors.
      SECTION 4.  Said chapter 234A is hereby further amended by inserting after section 67 the following 3 sections:-
      Section 67A.  Upon motion of either party, the court shall, or the parties or their attorneys may under the direction of the court, examine on oath a person who is called as a juror, to learn whether the juror related to either party or has any interest in the case, or has expressed or formed an opinion, or is sensible of any bias or prejudice. The objecting party may introduce other competent evidence in support of the objection. If the court finds that the juror does not stand indifferent in the case, another juror shall be called in. In a criminal case such examination shall include questions designed to learn whether such juror understands that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, that the commonwealth has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the defendant need not present evidence on the defendant’s behalf. If the court finds that such juror does not so understand, another juror shall be called in.
      To determine whether a juror stands indifferent in the case, if it appears that, as a result of the impact of considerations which may cause a decision to be made in whole or in part upon issues extraneous to the case, including, but not limited to, community attitudes, possible exposure to potentially prejudicial material or possible preconceived opinions toward the credibility of certain classes of persons, the juror may not stand indifferent, the court shall, or the parties or their attorneys may, with the permission and under the direction of the court, examine the juror specifically with respect to such considerations, attitudes, exposure, opinions or any other matters which may cause a decision to be made in whole or in part upon issues extraneous to the issues in the case. Such examination may include a brief statement of the facts of the case, to the extent the facts are appropriate and relevant to the issue of such examination and shall be conducted individually and outside the presence of other persons about to be called as jurors or already called.
      Section 67B.  In a civil case each party shall be entitled to 4 peremptory challenges. Such challenges shall be made before the commencement of the trial and may be made after it has been determined that a person called to serve as a juror stands indifferent in the case.
      Section 67C.  In indictments and penal actions for the recovery of a forfeiture, it shall not be a challenge for cause to a juror that the juror is liable to pay taxes in a county, city or town which may be benefited by such recovery.
      Section 67D.  Notwithstanding section 67A, the following procedures shall govern in all criminal and civil superior court jury trials:
            (1)  In addition to whatever jury voir dire of the jury venire is conducted by the court, the court shall permit, upon the request of any party's attorney or a self-represented party, the party's attorney or self-represented party to conduct an oral examination of the prospective jurors at the discretion of the court.
            (2)  The court may impose reasonable limitations upon the questions and the time allowed during such examination, including, but not limited to, requiring pre-approval of the questions.
            (3)  In criminal cases involving multiple defendants, the commonwealth shall be entitled to the same amount of time as that to which all defendants together are entitled.
            (4)  The court may promulgate rules to implement this section, including, but not limited to, providing consistent policies, practices and procedures relating to the process of jury voir dire.
      SECTION 5.  Said chapter 234A is hereby further amended by inserting after section 68 the following 3 sections:-
      Section 68A.  After a jury has been impanelled and sworn, the court shall appoint a foreperson.
      Section 68B.  In any civil action the jury shall be instructed that the agreement of 5/6 of its members shall be sufficient to render any special or general verdict.
      Section 68C.  If a jury, after due and thorough deliberation, returns to court without having agreed on a verdict, the court may state anew the evidence or any part of the evidence, explain to them anew the law applicable to the case and send them out for further deliberation; but if they return a second time without having agreed on a verdict, they shall not be sent out again without their own consent, unless they ask from the court some further explanation of the law.
      SECTION 6.  Said chapter 234A is hereby further amended by inserting after section 69 the following section:-
      Section 69A.  The court may, upon motion, allow the jury in a civil case to view the premises or place in question or any property, matter or thing relative to the case if the party making the motion advances an amount sufficient to defray the expenses of the jury and the officers who attend them in taking the view, which shall be taxed as costs, if the party who advanced them prevails. The court may order a view by a jury impanelled to try a criminal case.
      SECTION 7.  Said chapter 234A is hereby further amended by inserting after section 74 the following section:-
      Section 74A.  If either party to a case at the sitting at which a verdict is returned, either before or after the trial, gives to any of the jurors who try the case anything by way of treat or gratuity, the court may, upon motion of the adverse party, set aside the verdict and award a new trial.

Approved, February 10, 2016.