EvidenceProf Blog

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

Friday, April 17, 2015

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Indiana Murder Conviction Tossed Due to Juror Reading News Articles About Case

Similar to its federal counterpartIndiana Rule of Evidence 606(b) reads as follows:

(b)      During an Inquiry into the Validity of a Verdict or Indictment.

(1)  Prohibited Testimony or Other Evidence. During an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify about any statement made or incident that occurred during the jury's deliberations; the effect of anything on that juror's or another juror's vote; or any juror's mental processes concerning the verdict or indictment. The court may not receive a juror's affidavit or evidence of a juror's statement on these matters. 

(2)  Exceptions. A juror may testify about whether:

(A) any juror's drug or alcohol use;*

(B) extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention;

(C) an outside influence was improperly brought to bear on any juror; or

(D) a mistake was made in entering the verdict on the verdict form.

There has been a lot of talk recently about so-called Google mistrial based upon the slew of recent cases in which jurors have looked up information on the internet rather than relying solely upon the evidence admitted at trial. That said, there are still plenty of cases in which mistrials are granted based upon jury misconduct of the more traditional variety.

According to an article on CBS4 Indianapolis, 

A Morgan County man accused of murdering his son will have to get a new trial after jury misconduct resulted in a mistrial....

According to Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega, a juror violated a court order barring jurors from getting information about the case outside of the courtroom. The juror admitted reading newspaper articles about the case.

The reason this juror could impeach the verdict was because, under Indiana Rule of Evidence 606(b)(2)(B), extraneous prejudicial information -- the newspaper articles -- was improperly brought to the jury's attention.


*Interestingly, Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) does not allow for jury impeachment based upon juror drug or alcohol or drug use, and the Supreme Court found no problem with the lack of such an exception in Tanner v. United States.



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