EvidenceProf Blog

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Do The Right Thing: Court Finds Detective Pressure Constitutes An Improper Outside Influence Under Rule 606(b)

The Court of Appeals of North Carolina's recent opinion in State v. Lewis, 2008 WL 131223 (N.C. App. 2008), contains an application of Rule 606(b) that I have never before seen.  In Lewis, the defendant Paul Brantley Lewis, was convicted of first-degree sexual offense, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and felony breaking and entering.  Among the jurors hearing his case was Deputy Eddie Hughes of the Avery County Sheriff's Department.  Deputy Hughes actually knew Lewis through his work at Avery County Jail, where he twice transported him to Central Prison.  While Hughes transported Lewis to Central Prison, Lewis disclosed to him that he had failed a polygraph test.  However, despite Hughes admitting these facts during voir dire, Lewis' attorney did not use a peremptory challenge to remove Hughes.

After trial, defense counsel learned that during a break in Lewis' trial, Deputy Hughes went to the Sheriff's Department, where a detective said to him, "[I]f we have...a deputy sheriff for a juror, he would do the right thing.  You know he flunked a polygraph test, right?"  Hughes indicated that he failed to disclose this fact to the court because he already knew that the defendant failed his polygraph test.  Nonetheless, defense counsel moved for a new trial on the ground that Lewis had been unfairly prejudiced by this inappropriate communication.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina indicated that the issue of whether Hughes could testify about this conversation to disturb the trial court's verdict was governed by North Carolina Rule of Evidence 606(b)Rule 606(b) states that "[u]pon 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 extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention or whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror. 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."

The court first noted that the communication between Hughes and the detective did not constitute extraneous prejudicial information because Hughes already knew about the failed polygraph test and communicated this knowledge to the court.  The court did, however, find that the detective's statement about "do[ing] the right thing" constituted an improper outside influence because it clearly evinced an intent on the detective's part to try to influence Hughes into finding the defendant guilty.  The court then determined that the statement was sufficiently prejudicial to entitle the defendant to a new trial. 

While this is a unique application of the rule, I think that it is fundamentally similar to cases finding that threats by relatives of a defendant or victim to jurors constitute improper outside influences, allowing testimony concerning such threats to be admissible under Rule 606(b). 


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Deputy Hughes lied on three different occasions and it came out in an S.B.I. investigation that Det. Roberts never said the part about the failing of the lie detector. Dep Hughes alleged that he assisted Roberts in putting together a photo lineup where he alleged Roberts used three photos of LEWIS this was later revealed to be a lie Hughes only produced the CD of photos to Roberts Chief Jailer Coffey assisted in the pulling of the line up and at no time were there three photos of LEWIS in one lineup. Dep. Hughes changed his story also on the time and location of the "pressure conversation" he at first alleged that it was after he was a sworn juror and in the elevator with Det. Phillips present Det. Phillips testified

Posted by: Stan Michaels | Jun 17, 2009 2:52:47 PM

HELP! I live in this horrid county and it's just as corrupt now as it was when you wrote the article, if not more so, but that's hard to say since this county was basically founded on corruption and has always been the "good ol boy" system. We will unfortunately never even know all the crimes this local gov has perpetrated against it's own people because some of them are dead now and can't testify, which of course in avery co they call suicide, even when your hands are tied behind your back.... This place is a poster child of small town corruption and what happens when people with money meet people who in comparison have nothing. I think this county is the key to unravelling a bigger picture of corruption. This is not just random crimes, these are long term crimes, that following administrations help cover. Its outright organized crime running this county, imposing their opinions on people under color of law with extorted credit of the ones they misrepresent themsleves as protectors and servants of.

I have met Lewis personally. I have seen some of the documents first hand. They manufactured a case against him to destroy him. They are trying to retaliate against me and others. They just killed someone in the jail and nobody is as much as on administrative leave. I don't know where to stop and start. I've been harassed by officers named in this article before. None of them are less corrupt than the others, they are all just passing the buck and the ones left when they start spilling the beans, its probably going to be one seriously embaressing mess that topples their local oligarchy. I have been denied a jury here, denied rights under color of law, assaulted by sheriff Buchanan in his office for reporting possible crime against officers, and thats just the warm up. If you want to know more, email me. I know a lot of people that want to stop this corruption, but people are just too scared and all the local attorneys are too corrupt and most are involved in the racket.

Posted by: Help!! | Aug 26, 2013 3:46:52 PM

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