Litigation » Racist Jury Deliberations Aren’t Confidential, Supreme Court Rules

Racist Jury Deliberations Aren’t Confidential, Supreme Court Rules

Thunder storm sky over the United States Supreme Court building in Washington DC.

March 7, 2017

In cases where jurors may have made racist comments, judges have the right to breach the usually confidential deliberations, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week. “A constitutional rule that racial bias in the justice system must be addressed – including, in some instances, after the verdict has been entered – is necessary to prevent a systemic loss of confidence in jury verdicts,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 5-to-3 decision. “The Nation must continue to make strides to overcome race-based discrimination. The progress that has already been made underlies the Court’s insistence that blatant racial prejudice is antithetical to the functioning of the jury system.” The case at issue concerns Miguel Angel Peña Rodriguez, who was found guilty of sexual assault in 2007, but later learned that one juror said he thought Peña Rodriguez was guilty because he was Mexican, and “Mexican men take whatever they want.” In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that, “with the admirable intention of providing justice for one criminal defendant,” the court “rules that respecting the privacy of the jury room, as our legal system has done for centuries, violates the Constitution.”

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