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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Friday, December 24, 2010

A Misunderstanding: Court Of Appeals Of Texas Precludes Jury Impeachment Based On Juror Misimpression For Video

A defendant is on trial for driving while intoxicated (DWI). At trial, the prosecution shows a videotape to the jury in which the defendant says that he "took responsibility before." After the jury convicts the defendant, jurors approach defense counsel and inform him that they thought based upon the video that the defendant had been convicted of DWI before. In fact the defendant had no prior DWI convictions. Should the jurors be able to impeach their verdict? According to the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Texas, San Antonio, in Salazar v. State, 2010 WL 4840491 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 2010), the answer is "no." 

In Salazar, the facts were as stated above. In addressing the defendant's appeal, the court held that the issue was governed by Texas 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 jury's deliberations, or on any juror's mind or emotions or mental processes, as influencing any juror's assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment. Nor may a juror's affidavit or any statement by a juror concerning any matter about which the juror would be precluded from testifying be admitted in evidence for any of these purposes. However, a juror may testify: (1) whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror; or (2) to rebut a claim that the juror was not qualified to serve.

And, according to the court, the problem for the defendant was that he made

no allegation of outside influence that was improperly brought to bear upon the jurors. Instead, [defendant] appears to complain that the jurors reached erroneous conclusions from the evidence. In a similar case, S.P., this court, in finding counsel was not ineffective for failing to raise a juror misconduct issue, stated there was no jury misconduct when the jury discussed the thickness of the probation file and speculated that the accused juvenile had been in trouble before....Likewise, this court refused to find jury misconduct when one juror incorrectly informed the other jurors that the court papers that were in evidence reflected that the accused had served jail time for his first two DWI offenses when, in fact, they did not....Rather than outside influence, we described this situation as one in which "a juror misinterpreted documents in evidence."....In another similar case, the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals found no jury misconduct when, during deliberations, the jurors discussed the fact that the accused used his left hand to pick up a cup, which was consistent with the testimony of some other witnesses.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2010/12/606b-dui-salazar-v-statenot-reported-in-sw3d-2010-wl-4840491texapp-san-antonio2010.html

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