EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tanner '87: Court Of Criminal Appeals Of Tennessee Precludes Jury Impeachment Regarding Allegations Of Juror Intoxication

Similar to its federal counterpart, Tennessee Rule of Evidence 606(b) 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 any juror's mind or emotions as influencing that juror to assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment or concerning the juror's mental processes, except that a juror may testify on the question of whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention, whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror, or whether the jurors agreed in advance to be bound by a quotient or gambling verdict without further discussion; nor may a juror's affidavit or evidence of any statement by the juror concerning a matter about which the juror would be precluded from testifying be received for these purposes.

In its landmark opinion in Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107 (1987), the Supreme Court found that juror intoxication does not constitute an improper outside influence, with Justice O'Connor famously concluding, "However severe their effect and improper their use, drugs or alcohol voluntarily ingested by a juror seems no more an 'outside influence' than a virus, poorly prepared food, or a lack of sleep." Based upon this ruling, the defendant in State v. Haynes, 2010 WL 2473298 (Tenn.Crim.App. 2010), had no chance of success.

In Haynes, a jury convicted Manuel Haynes of two counts of aggravated robbery. He thereafter moved for a new trial, claiming, inter alia, that the court should grant his motion because his right to a fair trial was infringed due to juror misconduct. Specifically, he "alleged that three jurors committed misconduct by not reporting that they smelled alcohol on the breath of another juror and that one juror committed misconduct by participating in the trial and deliberations while intoxicated." The trial court denied the motion.

In his subsequent appeal, Haynes

argue[d] that Tennessee Code Annotated section 22-2-312, allowing an ill juror to be discharged, and State v. Millbrooks, 819 S.W.2d 441 (Tenn.Crim.App.1991), holding that intoxication constitutes an illness subjecting the juror to discharge, support[ed] his proposition that the court should have granted his motion for new trial. In Millbrooks, the trial judge noticed the juror's intoxication and questioned the juror about it, subsequently dismissing the juror.

According to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, there were two problems with Haynes' argument. First, he merely relied upon his counsel's argument that the juror was drunk, and such arguments do not constitute evidence. Second, even if Haynes had proposed juror testimony concerning the juror's intoxication, it would have been inadmissible under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 606(b) because it would have been internal to the jury deliberation process.



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