Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Expert Opinion / Workplace Issues / Workplace Issues: Jury room conversations not basis for new trial

Workplace Issues: Jury room conversations not basis for new trial

The question presented in the case of Warger v. Shauers, 574 U.S.___(2014), decided on Dec. 9, is whether Federal Rule 606(b) precludes a party from seeking a new trial from using one juror’s affidavit of what another juror said in deliberations to demonstrate the other juror’s dishonesty during voir dire? The Supreme Court held that it does.Korn,-Lindy-new-2014

The court relies on the language of the Rule 606(b), which prohibited the use of any evidence of juror deliberations, subject only to the express exceptions for extraneous information and outside influences. Indeed, the legislative history of this rule confirms that Congress rejected a prior version that would have prohibited juror testimony only as to the “effect of anything upon … any juror’s mind or emotions … or concerning his mental processes.” Thus, Congress “specifically understood, considered, and rejected a version of Rule 606(b)” that would have likely permitted the introduction of evidence of deliberations to show dishonesty during voir dire.

In this traffic accident case, one juror, Whipple, said she could be fair. After the plaintiff lost at trial, the plaintiff’s lawyer heard from a juror who said that Whipple told the other jurors during deliberations “about a motor vehicle collision in which her daughter was at fault for the collision and one man had died,” and had “related that if her daughter had been sued, it would have ruined her life.” Whipple was the jury forewoman. If this account was true then Whipple was not being honest at jury selection. If she had mentioned her daughter at jury selection, she probably would not have been picked for the jury.

The plaintiff’s lawyer got the juror to sign an affidavit describing what Whipple said during deliberations, arguing that Whipple had lied about her impartiality during jury selection, denying plaintiff a fair trial. However, under Federal Rule 606(b), certain juror testimony regarding what happened in a jury room is inadmissible “during an inquiry into the validity of a verdict.” The rule disallows plaintiff from seeking a new trial, a unanimous Supreme Court says.

In enacting Rule 606(b), Congress declined to “permit the introduction of evidence of deliberations to show dishonesty during voir dire.” Congress wanted jurors to be able to deliberate without the fear that their private deliberations would be exposed and picked apart.

Thus, what happens in the jury room is protected.

Lindy Korn practices at The Law Office of Lindy Korn and can be reached at lkorn@lkorn-law.com, (716) 856-KORN (5676) or www.lindykorn.com.