2 of 4: Common Arguments in a Post-Conviction Argument – Juror Misconduct

The Rules of Evidence restrain juror testimony, which makes gathering evidence to prove juror misconduct more difficult. Federal Rules of Evidence 606(b)(1) provides that jurors may not testify about what was said in jury deliberations, the effect of anything on the juror’s vote, or the mental processes concerning the outcome of the case. This rule covers a significant amount of information that would be helpful in a post-Conviction argument, so how would a juror misconduct argument proceed?

Federal Rules of Evidence 606(b)(2) provides three exceptions to this rule. Jurors can testify about extraneous prejudicial information improperly brought to the jury’s attention, any outside influence that was improperly brought to the juror, or a mistake that was made entering the verdict. These exceptions often form the basis for a post-Conviction argument for juror misconduct. Along with the exceptions under Federal Rules of Evidence 606(b)(2), Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107 (1987), provides two possible alternatives that do not implicate Federal Rule 606. These alternatives are: (1) a juror has the option to report inappropriate behavior before rendering a verdict, and (2) non-juror evidence may be used in order to impeach a verdict. These options allow evidence to be presented that would be needed to make a juror misconduct argument.

So, what actually constitutes juror misconduct? In general, Jurors are supposed to only consider evidence presented in trial. They are told to stay away from media sources and not to engage in outside conversation about the trial. Thus, jury misconduct can present itself when jurors seek information outside of the trial which contributes to their final decision.

Another type of juror misconduct presents itself if the juror is dishonest during jury selection and voir dire (preliminary examination of a witness/juror). In Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420 (2000), a jury member lied on voir dire about being in a relationship with one of the state’s witnesses. Upon finding out the intentional concealment of the relationship and dishonesty, the Fourth Circuit granted habeas relief.

In addition, juror misconduct can present itself when a juror relies on racial stereotypes to convict a defendant. In Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 580 U.S. 206 (2017), a juror made a statement then indicated reliance on racial stereotypes when deciding to convict. The United States Supreme Court held that in situations like this one, the Sixth Amendment permits a trial court to consider juror’s statements and any resulting denial of the jury trial guarantee.

If you believe that your case has been affected by juror misconduct, contact us today!