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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jurors Behaving Badly: Eastern District Of California Precludes Jury Impeachment Regarding Intrajury Threats Of Violence

Just last week, I posted an entry about a recent opinion out of Texas in which an appellate court refused to allow a juror to impeach her verdict based upon allegations of derogatory intimidation by other jurors until she changed her vote. The basis for the court's refusal was Texas' counterpart to Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b), which provides that

Upon an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify as to any matter or statement occurring during the course of the jury's deliberations or to the effect of anything upon that or any other juror's mind or emotions as influencing the juror to assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment or concerning the juror's mental processes in connection therewith. But a juror may testify about (1) whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention, (2) whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror, or (3) whether there was a mistake in entering the verdict onto the verdict form. A juror's affidavit or evidence of any statement by the juror may not be received on a matter about which the juror would be precluded from testifying .

The recent opinion of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in Dickson v. Subia, 2010 WL 1992580 (E.D. Cal. 2010), in which a juror was allegedly subjected to both verbal harassment and physical threats, was resolved on similar grounds.

In Subia, Bradford Dickson was convicted of fifteen sex offenses, including lewd and lascivious conduct on a child, oral copulation on a child, and unlawful sexual intercourse with a child. Dickson later filed a habeas petition with the Supreme Court of California, claiming, inter alia,

that his right to due process was violated by jury misconduct, which involved the "harassing and intimidation of a single jury member who expressed opposing viewpoints than others....”" Specifically, petitioner assert[ed] that juror Oluwasola Ifasade wanted to vote "not guilty," but was subjected to verbal harassment by the other jurors during deliberations until she changed her vote....Petitioner assert[ed] that Ifasade was also "physically threatened by another juror putting his hands in her face and yelling at her in an attempt to persuade her to change her vote, which ultimately she did against her better judgment."...In support of his contention, petitioner provide[d] declarations from Ifasade, as well as a private investigator who interviewed Ifasade and several other jurors in August 2006, two years after petitioner's conviction.

After the court rejected this petition, Dickson then filed a federal habeas petition with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California which agreed with the California Supremes. According to the court,

Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) prohibits jurors from testifying as to matters or statements occurring during the course of jury deliberations, as well as the effect of such matters or statements on any juror's mental processes or emotions in reaching a verdict....This provision also provides that "a juror's affidavit or evidence of any statement by the juror may not be received on a matter about which the juror would be precluded from testifying."...

Accordingly, absent an allegation by petitioner that extraneous prejudicial information invaded the jury room, this Court may not review the jury's deliberative process by considering statements made by Ifasade or any of the other jurors to impeach the verdict....The declarations provided by petitioner concern matters or statements which occurred during the course of jury deliberations, as well as the effect of such matters or statements on the jurors' mental processes or emotions in reaching a verdict....This Court may not consider the jurors' statements, years after petitioner's conviction, to impeach the verdict.

As I noted in my prior post, I understand that Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) is designed to protect the privacy of jurors and the sanctity of deliberations? But do we want protect juror privacy when there are allegations of threatened violence, and do we want to uphold verdicts based upon such threats?

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2010/05/606b--dickson-v-subiaslip-copy-2010-wl-1992580edcal2010.html

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