BALTIMORE, MD — On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 3 in the case Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado that the Sixth Amendment to the United State Constitution requires a trial court to consider evidence that overt racial bias tainted jury deliberations in a criminal case when determining whether to grant a new trial to a convicted defendant. Prior to this case, “no-impeachment rules” in state counterparts to Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) were widely interpreted as shielding the jury deliberation process from judicial inquiry or review under these circumstances. Only sixteen jurisdictions and the District of Columbia recognized an exception to the no-impeachment rule for juror testimony about racial bias in deliberations.
NAACP General Counsel, Bradford M. Berry, released a statement about today’s ruling: “We applaud the Court’s thoughtful decision. When there is credible evidence that racial bias has infected a jury’s verdict in a criminal case, any concerns regarding the efficient administration of the criminal justice system must give way to the necessity to ensure the fair and impartial administration of that system. Today’s decision does just that.”
You can download the U. S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado here.