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Racist jurors’ impact on guilty verdicts will be weighed by Supreme Court

Apr 29, 2016

Seats in the jury box sit empty during a hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court.; Credit: Pool/Getty Images

If a juror shows racial bias during jury deliberations, then is a defendant being robbed of his or her Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury?

That question will be debated at the Supreme Court in the fall. The case stems from Colorado where a Latino man was charged with attempted sexual assault.

After he was found guilty, two jurors told the defense lawyer about a fellow juror’s racist statements against the defendant. They claim the juror known as initials H.C. made several racist comments during jury deliberations, including: “I think he did it because he’s Mexican and Mexican men take whatever they want.”

The high court has considered bad behavior by jurors in the past, but in narrow decisions has found verdicts cannot be nullified due to what happens during jury deliberations.

Where do you stand on this case?

If the justices overturned the verdict against Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez, what would be the impact of that precedent?

Why did the defense lawyer fail to identify a racist juror before it was too late?

Guests:

Lisa Kern Griffin, Professor of Law, Duke University; Griffin drafted an amicus brief submitted by a group of law professors

William (Bill) Otis, Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University; Otis has worked in the criminal division at the Department of Justice and served as Special Counsel to the President (George H.W. Bush)

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