Friday, December 7, 2007
A judge in Knox County Criminal Court in Illinois has made what I can only characterize as a bizarre evidentiary ruling in the post-conviction hearing for Charles W. Campbell. In 1992, after a jury trial, Campbell was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment under the habitual criminal act. Robert Taylor was a juror in that case, and he was later called for jury duty in 2002, at which point he told the court that was not sure that he could be fair and impartial because in the Campbell case two other holdouts and he eventually succumbed to pressure by other jurors to find Campbell guilty despite thinking that there was insufficient evidence against him.
Based upon these statements, Taylor moved for a post-conviction hearing, alleging that his Constitutional rights had been violated. The hearing is being held before Ninth Circuit Judge James Stewart, who warned Taylor that there was a possibility of criminal charges being filed against him for jury misconduct depending on his potential testimony. The judge then advised Taylor of his right to remain silent, Taylor then invoked his right, and the court dismissed him.
Over the objection of the Knox County State's Attorney, however, the judge allowed two men who had conversations with Taylor about the jury deliberations to testify. Reverend Tyson Haywood, and his brother, Terry, both testified that Taylor told them about the doubts he had about Campbell's guilt and how he aceded to the opinions of other jurors.
The judge's rulings are baffling to me. Judge Stewart shouldn't have told Taylor that he could have faced charges if he testified; he should have told him that he was precluded from testifying. Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) states that jurors can't testify about their thought process in reaching a particular verdict, but that they can testify about either whether extraneous prejudicial information was brought before any juror or whether there was any improper outside influence brought to bear on any juror. Illinois doesn't have a statutory counterpart to this Federal Rule, but in People v. Holmes, 372 N.E.2d 656, 660 (Ill. 1978), the Supreme Court of Illinois quoted the federal rule with approval.
In Chalmers v. City of Chicago, 431 N.E.2d 361, 363 (Ill. 1982), the Supreme Court of Illinois later noted: "It is well established in this State, and almost universally recognized, that a jury may not impeach its verdict by affidavit or testimony which shows the motive, method, or process by which the verdict was reached." While I was unable to find an Illinois case directly dealing with the issue of pressure from other jurors, there are manifold examples of other courts holding that jurors could not testify after a verdict that they changed their vote after buckling from pressure by other jurors. See, e.g., United States v. Lloyd, 462 F.3d 510, 519 (6th Cir. 2006).
Of course, not only did the judge thus incorrectly instruct Taylor, but he then compounded his error by allowing the Haywood brothers to testify about Taylor's statements to them about the jury deliberations. Their testimony was not only inadmissible pursuant to the principles behind Rule 606(b), but they also constituted hearsay in that the Taylor brothers were testifying to Taylor's out of court statements to prove the truth of the matter asserted in them. I also note that depending on the nature of Taylor's statements to Reverend Tyson Haywood, the statements could have been protected from disclosure under Illinois' privilege for confessions and admissions made to members of the clergy.