United State Supreme Court Allows Attack of Jury Verdict Where Juror Demonstrated Racial Bias
Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a jury verdict can be attacked by a showing that one or more jurors exhibited overt racial bias casting serious doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the jury’s deliberations.
In Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado (No. 15-606), https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-606_886b.pdf, the Court ruled that the case intersected the Court’s decisions endorsing the high standards against impeachment of jury verdicts and those seeking to eliminate racial bias in the jury system.
In this case, a Colorado jury convicted the defendant of harassment and unlawful sexual contact. Defense counsel subsequently obtained two affidavits from jurors regarding another juror’s anti-Hispanic biased statements.
The Supreme Court reversed Pena-Rodriguez’s conviction and remanded the case to the Colorado court stating that a Constitutional rule that racial bias in the justice system must be addressed to ensure the confidence in jury verdicts which is a central premise of a defendant’ right to a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment.
The Court further stated that a statement requiring the set aside of a verdict must be shown to have been a significant motivating factor in the juror’s vote to convict.
Lori G. Levin
Attorney at Law
180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700
Chicago, IL 60601