EvidenceProf Blog

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jurors Behaving Badly: Supreme Court Of Louisiana Addresses Odd Claim Of Jury Misconduct

Similar to its federal counterpart, Louisiana 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 his or any other juror's mind or emotions as influencing him to assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment or concerning his mental processes in connection therewith, except that a juror may testify on the question whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror, and, in criminal cases only, whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention.  Nor may his affidavit or evidence of any statement by him concerning a matter about which he would be precluded from testifying be received for these purposes.

Usually, a non-juror is the source of extraneous prejudicial information. As the recent opinion of the Supreme Court of Louisiana in State v. Ingram, 2011 WL 10885566 (La. 2011), makes clear, however, in exceptional circumstances, jurors themselves may be the source of extraneous prejudicial outside information.

In Ingram,

The state charged defendant by grand jury indictment with second degree murder...after he shot his ex-wife, Kimberly Ingram, in his home on October 18, 2006. Defendant had three children with Kimberly, and they had been married for 14 years before the marriage dissolved and they divorced. At the time of the shooting, defendant was married to Nancy Ingram, who was in the home at the time of the fatal confrontation between defendant and his ex-wife. After trial by jury, defendant was convicted of manslaughter.

After the verdict was entered, the jury foreman submitted an affidavit, which

stated that during recesses as the trial proceeded, Juror No. 8 had informed other jurors on the panel that she suspected her boyfriend was having an affair and was taking advantage of her service on the jury to visit his paramour. Acting on her suspicions, Juror No. 8 had armed herself with a baseball bat over a noon lunch recess during the evidentiary portions of the trial and “made an unauthorized entry into the house of the alleged paramour.” She found her boyfriend in bed with the woman. Juror No. 8 told the woman to remain still and listen to her. She also informed her boyfriend that she would deal with him later. The confrontation apparently ended at that point. The jury foreman further explained in his affidavit that Juror No. 8 "acknowledged to him and others that she had placed herself in the same position as Kimberly Ingram, as both had entered homes without authority." Finally, the foreman alleged that the incident allowed the other jurors to have "the benefit of a 'recreation' of the crime, and more importantly, allowed them to use this evidence in its deliberation to compare the juror's position at the house she entered to that of Kim Ingram; i .e., the juror lived; Ms. Ingram did not."

The defendant used this affidavit to move for an evidentiary hearing in jury misconduct, and the trial court denied the motion, but the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the

case offered 'a strikingly atypical' example of juror misconduct because 'a juror allegedly committed a crime during the course of the trial, which crime was reminiscent of the facts of the case being tried,' and then related the incident to the rest of the jurors, thereby calling the jury's fact-finding process into serious question....The panel therefore concluded that it was worth breaching the jury shield rule of La.C.E. art 606(B) to establish the full facts of the incident and the extent to which it became the focus of attention during deliberations, although ultimately defendant might not be entitled to any relief, because the costs of conducting such a hearing appeared far less than the costs to public confidence in the criminal justice system if the hearing were not conducted.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana, however, disagreed, finding, inter alia, that

the trial court correctly ruled that even as alleged, the conduct of Juror No. 8 did not give rise to a reasonable possibility that the information she conveyed contributed significantly to the jury's verdict. Reasonable jurors would not have understood Juror No . 8's conduct as an attempt to recreate the crime charged against defendant, as she had clearly acted on her own impulses in her own private life. Thus..., the juror's conduct did not represent an experiment in an attempt to test evidentiary propositions put at issue during the trial and did not implicate defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation and cross-examination, or invite the other jurors to look beyond the evidence presented at trial for evidence on which to base their verdict. Nor did her information convey extra-record facts about defendant which might have prejudiced him, or touch upon esoteric matters beyond the ken of the other jurors' common understanding and experience.



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