U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case of Juror's Racial Bias

The Supreme Court will hear a case next month where justices will determine if racially charged comments during jury deliberations are grounds for breaking juror confidentiality.

In a 2010 sexual assault trial in Colorado, a juror identified as H.C. during deliberations said of the defendant, Miguel Angel Pea Rodriguez, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want.”

Pea Rodriguez was accused of harassing and trying to grope teenage girls in a bathroom at a racetrack in 2007. The court convicted Pea Rodriguez of three misdemeanors but deadlocked over a felony charge. He was sentenced to only two years’ probation.

After the trial, questions arose about whether H.C.’s remarks impacted the verdict and prevented the jury from reaching a conclusion on the most serious charge which would have resulted in a more serious sentencing if he were found guilty of the felony as well. Two jurors revealed H.C.’s comments. “He said that where he used to patrol, nine times out of 10 Mexican men were guilty of being aggressive toward women and young girls,” one juror, L.T., reported.

Another juror, M.M., recalled that H.C. “made other statements concerning Mexican men being physically controlling of women because they have a sense of entitlement and think they can ‘do whatever they want’ with women.'”

H.C. showed racial bias against a witness as well. The witness testified that Pea Rodriguez was somewhere else at the time of the alleged incident. But H.C. was not convinced, L.T. recalled. “He said he did not think the alibi witness was credible because, among other things, he was ‘an illegal,'” according to L.T.

In addition to calling into question whether H.C.’s statements kept the jury from possibly convicting Pea Rodriguez of the felony charge, they have now provided Pea Rodriguez with the opportunity to appeal his conviction of the misdemeanors.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of the sanctity of juror deliberations, saying, “Protecting the secrecy of jury deliberations is of paramount importance to our justice system.”

Justice Monica M. Mrquez dissented, writing that “racial bias is detestable in any context, but in our criminal justice system it is especially pernicious.” Not denying the importance of juror deliberations being kept private, she said this secrecy cannot “trump a defendant’s opportunity to vindicate his fundamental constitutional right to an impartial jury untainted by the influence of racial bias.”

Jeffrey L. Fisher, a lawyer for Pea Rodriguez, believes his client’s right has been violated.

“When racial prejudice infects a jury’s decision whether to convict, the integrity of the criminal justice system is brought into direct question,” he said.

Juror Confidentiality Historically Upheld in Court

The debate in this case is between the secrecy of juror deliberations and Pea Rodriguez’s right to an impartial jury. In the past, courts have sided with the sanctity of deliberations. In Colorado’s ruling, judges compared Pea Rodriguez’s case to a Supreme Court case of juror impartiality, Warger v. Shauers.

Warger v. Shauers involved a motor vehicle accident in which Randy Shauers struck Gregory Warger. Warger, who lost part of his leg, sued Shauers and lost. According to court documents, after the trial it came out that one juror “had revealed during deliberations that her daughter had been at fault in a fatal motor vehicle accident, and that a lawsuit would have ruined her daughter’s life.”

Warger believed that this juror should have been more honest during jury selection. However, the court unanimously rejected Warger’s argument and concluded that this did not constitute breaking juror confidentiality. “Even if jurors lie in voir dire in a way that conceals bias, juror impartiality is adequately assured by the parties’ ability to bring to the court’s attention any evidence of bias before the verdict is rendered, and to employ nonjuror evidence even after the verdict is rendered,” the opinion states.

“What’s involved here is a juror reporting what she heard during the deliberations,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “And it seems to me that’s exactly the kind of thing that is not permitted.”

The court also referred to a 1987 case, Tanner v. United States, where jurors were intoxicated during deliberations. The court concluded that this did not justify breaking confidentiality either.

However, the opinion for Warger v. Shauers includes a footnote that may leave future cases up for interpretation. “There may be cases of juror bias so extreme that, almost by definition, the jury trial right has been abridged,” the footnote reads. “If and when such a case arises, the court can consider whether the usual safeguards are or are not sufficient to protect the integrity of the process.”

In Mrquez’s dissent in the Colorado court, she pointed out that the Supreme Court did not in Warger v. Shauers state that this should set the precedent for future cases.

“Absent a clear command from the Supreme Court, we will not defy the unmistakable trend in the Court’s case law as articulated in both Tanner and Warger preserving the sanctity of jury deliebrations and thus refusing to deem Rule 606(b) unconstitutional,” she wrote.

Latest News

Inherent Racism Revealed in COVID-19 Vaccine Trials; Texas Sheriff Charged in Death of Javier Ambler While in Police Custody; AOC Attacks Trump Over $70k Spent on His Hair; and More

Major COVID-19 vaccine trials currently underway lack racial inclusion. The research being carried out in search of a vaccine for COVID-19 contains a startling lack of diversity, according to a new story from Fast Company’s Kristin Toussaint. While the stats on COVID-19’s attack on people of color continue to alarm…

Anti-Asian Racism in the United States Continues to Soar as a Result of Attitudes Over COVID-19; the Myth of ‘Defund the Police’; and More

Pandemic continues to cause soaring levels of anti-Asian racism. It was only a matter of time: the White House’s constant referral to COVID-19 as the “China Virus” has indeed caused a tidal wave of continuing racism against people of Asian ancestry, according to a new report published in the American…

Biden Stands by His Commitment to LGBTQ rights; Cost of Racism in the U.S. Tops $16 Trillion; Black and Latinx Continue to Die from COVID-19 at Nearly Twice the Rate of Whites; and More

Biden reaffirms commitment to LGBTQ rights; promises to pass Equality Act. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden doubled down on his promises to the LGBTQ community while speaking at a presidential town hall for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on Sept. 24. “You deserve a partner in the White House to…

degeneres, work, show

Leadership Lessons to be Gleaned from Ellen DeGeneres’ Toxic Workplace Scandal

Ellen DeGeneres began her daytime talk show’s 18th season with an apology after a summer of allegations against her that claimed her show promoted a toxic work environment rife with racism, sexual misconduct and other mistreatment. In August 2020, three senior producers — executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman…

COVID entrepreneur

Explosive New Growth in Small Businesses Due to COVID-19; America’s Police Force is Not Becoming More Diverse Despite BLM Movement; the Best and Worst Performing States in the 2020 Census; and More

Even with incredible nationwide unemployment rates, the creation of new small and diverse businesses has exploded due to COVID-19. Finally some news coming out of our pandemic: The Philadelphia Tribune reports that as bars and restaurants closed and stay-at-home orders were put into place earlier in 2020 to help fight…

Justice for Breonna not served; The essential rule of politics; Teen serves two months in jail for not doing homework; and More

Justice for Breonna not served as grand jury indicted officer who shot her with wanton endangerment — but not murder. “Outrageous and offensive.” Those were  by attorney to the family, Ben Crump to describe the grand jury’s decision in the March 13 fatal police shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. While…

IBM, EEOC, age

EEOC Unearths Years of Intentional Age Discrimination within IBM

After a long investigation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has revealed that IBM leaders had directed managers to replace older workers with younger ones. Between 2013 and 2018, nearly 86% of those considered for layoffs within the organization were older employees over the age of 40. The investigation showed…

Breathe March in Globe Park, New York, USA - 12 Sep 2020

Cities under attack from the Justice Department; Louisville bracing for the Breonna Taylor murder charge; Twitter reveals its racist side; and More

Justice department attacks three U.S. cities, declaring them anarchist zones — despite most of the protests that took place in each city being peaceful marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a move designed to pull federal funding from New York City, Seattle and Portland, OR, the…