Jury Questions: What Happened to the State’s Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases in Georgia?
A lot of criminal defense attorneys are justifiably concerned about whether a handful of Georgia trial court judges are doing everything that they can to diminish the requirement that the State prove its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. One of the foremost areas of concerns is the trend towards allowing jury questions. So, how bad can this be? Would jurors really want to ask questions of witnesses in a criminal trial? The answer is unequivocally yes if Hernandez v. State is any indication:
At the beginning of the trial, the court told the jurors that they could submit written questions for the witnesses. After each witness had been examined by the parties, the jurors could submit their questions, if any, to the court. The questions were then shared with counsel, who were given an opportunity to object before the court posed any questions it found proper to the witness. The parties were also allowed to ask follow-up questions to the witness. Using this procedure, the trial court asked more than 70 questions from the jury; the jurors submitted no questions for some witnesses, while the court asked other witnesses more than ten jury questions.
Hernandez v. State, 299 Ga. 796, 798–99, 792 S.E.2d 373, 376 (2016).